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Miss Jane

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,460 Ratings  ·  599 Reviews
Brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a Southern pastoral.

Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place—namely, sex and marriage.

From the country
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published July 26th 2016 by W.W. Norton & Company
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Marla During prenatal development, tissues differentiate to become the vagina and to eliminate feces and urine. Sometimes the process stops too early and…moreDuring prenatal development, tissues differentiate to become the vagina and to eliminate feces and urine. Sometimes the process stops too early and the infant has a cloaca, one opening instead of three. It's also related to conditions that cause indeterminate sex- where the fetus has not developed clearly into male or female.(less)
Bill Gay? Nah. I think it was more an accurate depiction of how young men communicated back then. They were so non-homophobic that expressions of…moreGay? Nah. I think it was more an accurate depiction of how young men communicated back then. They were so non-homophobic that expressions of fellowship weren't misconstrued, as they so often have been in more recent times.(less)

Community Reviews

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Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"She did not like the vexation of her incontinence, and wished she would outgrow it, but eventually accepted it as part of who she was, no matter how unsavory.
She determined that she would live like any other girl as best she could, and when she could no longer do that, she would adjust her life to its terms accordingly. So she did not fear her own strangeness, even though her awareness of it grew and evolved as she got older".

I really had no idea what to expect when I started reading this stor
Diane S ☔
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Third book I have given five stars to in the past week, so....... either I am getting sentimentally sappy (which I don't believe for a minute) or (there are some awfully good books being published), yep let's go with this one. Jane and Dr. Thompson are two of the most memorable and admirable characters that I have had the pleasure of encountering in fiction. Jane's characters is based on the author's great aunt and this makes her even more special.

Early 1900's in Mississippi, Jane is born to a m
Miss Jane is a beautiful book which delivers a message that is both meditative and quietly powerful. Brad Watson relates a fictional account about a woman, Jane Chisolm, inspired by his real-life great aunt. He does so with a prose that is lyrical, elegant and soothing. Solidly character-driven, this novel introduces us to Jane at birth, where she is brought into this world in 1915 in rural Mississippi. Jane is born with a congenital deformity that will have a lasting effect on all of her relati ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written - a story that is quietly intriguing and inspiring. This is a novel where the characters will take hold of you and you will have great difficulty letting go of them by the end of the story.

Miss Jane is a story of a child born with an inoperable condition in rural Mississippi in 1915.

An amazing sense of time and place with wonderful characters. The story is based loosely on the life of the authors great aunt Jane who was born with a rare congenital deformity.
We are introduce
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book quietly and tenderly tip-toed into my heart. It introduced me to each character so vividly that I felt like I was standing among them. I found myself so engaged that my reading pace slowed down as to not miss a word of what this disheartened family had to endure. Each member of the Chisolm family suffered in solitude in their own unique way with the tragic, congenital defect of little Jane.

The story was based on the author's great-aunt. It began with her birth and continued through th
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-favorites
The best kind of book inspires you, transports you, and wraps you up inside it. The main character of Miss Jane, Jane Chisholm, faced one of life's considerable obstacles with grace and fortitude. I felt sad at times because of the hardships Jane had, but as I was reading, the point the author was making in my mind was that I should not feel sorry for Jane, that she would not want me to feel sad for her; Jane was good with how she was, how her life was. She accepted her life and lived it exactly ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh this quiet little book, drawing upon the life of the author's great aunt.
Jane, born in rural, early twentieth century Mississippi, who was born with a genital defect, was so good. It was sad, that she had to live with the limitations this caused her, but she lived her life with a grace and strength that I will not forget. There are a few other great characters in this book also...her father, the doctor country doctor who examined her at birth and continued to be a huge part of her life, and
Cathrine ☯️
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Inspired by a great-aunt born with a “difference,” and a single photograph of her as a young woman, Brad Watson has crafted a quietly stunning story that captivated me on every page. Not one word was superfluous or wasted. I’m not sure if I’m more astonished that a man wrote it or at how sensitively and beguilingly his prose washed over me.
From the moment of her birth, Miss Jane defies expectation and lives a life not defined by what is missing, rather by what is present—in herself and in her
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Love Bird
A Simply Superb Novel

"A little girl, I believe," Dr. Thompson pronounced. Brad Watson set the mood perfectly by showing rather than telling about this 1915 baby delivery in a small farmhouse in rural Mississippi. The midwife's "narrowed eyes" as she washed the baby, while the father waited outside with "his long face in half shadow," and mom viewed the baby like she was "some kind of potentially dangerous creature."

The condition of the baby, "Jane" but called "Janie," was medically d
Diane Barnes
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite type of book, a quiet and contemplative novel of the life of a woman born in 1915 in rural Mississippi. Jane was born with a "defect" that was not fixable at that time in medical history. It made her incontinent and unable to have sex or bear children. It also caused caused her to be a social outcast of sorts, as school and normal friendships were impossible because of her frequent accidents. So she grew up on the farm, with only a sister who resented being her caretaker, a m ...more
Miss Jane is the story of Miss Jane Chisholm, born in early 20th century Missisippi, in a very rural setting, with birth defects, genital birth defects, that will affect her entire life. The local doctor who delivers her, discovers, and later researches her physical deficits, and remains a major force in her life. This story is apparently based on the life of a distant relative of the author.

Miss Jane is a novel of self, but not selfishness, of persistence in the face of major physical difficult
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
She understood somehow that she was lucky in her special way to love these events without the complicated, pressing question of physical love, to absorb life from the center and its periphery at once, so she could for a while take it all in with the sweet fullness of the entirely human and the utterly strange, without apprehension or fear.

Miss Jane, like its titular character and beautiful cover, is a strange, sad sort of bird for a book, a quietly powerful tale of a girl both unusual and ordi
Heidi The Hippie Reader
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Confession time: I picked this one up because of the cover. I do that sometimes. Who could resist that peacock? It's an exciting method of book selection because I read novels I would have never considered otherwise and occasionally discover a gem. Miss Jane is, fortunately, one of those gems.

Miss Jane is about Jane Chisolm- an extraordinary girl born in the deep South in the early 19th century with a physical deformity so extreme that she can never have children or even control her bowels. Thou
3 stars. I know I'm in the minority with having less than a 4 or 5 star rating. There is no doubt that this author writes beautifully. My less than excellent rating is based on my overall feelings throughout this book - I just couldn't help but feel saddened while reading this entire novel. My heart broke for Jane on every single page - I felt so bad for her, her condition and her loneliness. Jane learned to accept her condition and grew to experience happiness, excitement (my heart melted durin ...more
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Life is not fair in that way or any other way. We are who and what we are.

This is a beautiful, meditative book about how one woman's physical differences create a separateness and life-long aloneness in the world.

Jane Chisolm (a character based on the author's great aunt) was born differently than other girls - with a condition making sexual coupling physically impossible, an inability to conceive and carry a baby, as well as lifelong incontinence. Born on a farm in early twentieth century Mis
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
5+ stars.

Miss Jane is a novel that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Jane Chilson, born with a urogenital birth defect is faced to live life the best she can given the hand she was dealt. Her parents are emotionally unavailable and she only realizes her father’s love after he dies. The one figure who has been a constant in her life is Dr. Thompson, her physician. He is like a father figure to her, looking after her from birth until his death. He is the one she reaches out to when she has
Mike W
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In a novel sure to draw initial comparisons with Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Brad Watson imagines the life of a woman with a difference so great that it has the power to leave her feeling utterly alone in the world. Comparisons with Middlesex are warranted, Jane is conceived in a, let’s say baleful coupling, and though she appears in nearly every way to be a normal child there is one great difference that will result in a lifetime of being an outsider.

Comparisons between the two novels should
Betsy Robinson
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a story! Well written, intriguing, and until page 199—with the help of google—maddeningly mysterious. I'm not sure how much to say in a review. The book's commercial blurb tells too much for my taste and I would advise against reading it.

Suffice it to say this is a quiet, sensitive, and sensual story of a girl with a birth defect. For the longest time, I couldn't properly visualize it. When I finally saw medical pictures via my own research, I was so shocked that I understand why it was int
This book completely blew me away. It was so good. I still have a few more of the Nat'l Book Award list to get to but of the ones I've read this is my favorite and I can't imagine anything knocking it out of that spot.

It is the story, loosely based on the authors Aunt, who was born with a genital defect that causes her incontinence and infertility among other things. It takes place in rural Mississippi in the early parts of the 20th century. Jane is a remarkable character and despite everyone fe
Rebecca Foster
This is a historical novel loosely based on the story of the author’s great-aunt. Born in Mississippi in 1915, she had malformed genitals, which led to lifelong incontinence. Jane is a wonderfully plucky protagonist, and her friendship with her doctor, Ed Thompson, is particularly touching. “You would not think someone so afflicted would or could be cheerful, not prone to melancholy or the miseries.” This reminded me most of What Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins, an excellent novel about living a ...more
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Brad Watson's writing style is superb. This book has so many layers. I really want to gush about the descriptions of the raw Mississippi farmland, the hound dogs, the front porches, the pecan trees, and the woods filled with pine and broadleaf trees. Carefully pay attention to the loving descriptions by Watson and the tender thoughts of these woods by his heroine, Jane Chisolm. I found that in the end, it was poignant the relationship Jane had with her land.

Jane Chisolm was born in 1915 with
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jane is born in 1915 in rural eastern Mississippi. She is born with a condition that is inoperable during that time and makes her unable to have a "normal" life - schooling is more difficult, as is future job opportunities, and relationships are practically out of question. But the author takes this as a jumping off point to examine the value in a single life, the assumptions we make about how people will be, and throws in a little history of female genital surgery history.

I don't know. I'm a bi
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The main character, Miss Jane, was gracious, curious, adventurous, compassionate and loving. I would have read 1000 pages about her. She offered a not-entirely-subtle lesson that difference does not have to be hardship, solitude does not have to be sadness. Her father and the doctor were excellent characters. And there were peacocks.
Alyson Hagy
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I have known Brad Watson for more than ten years. I was a fan of his fiction before I met him, so my expectations for MISS JANE were high. But now that I have read the novel, I am in raptures. I think it is one of the most deft and generous portraits of an American character I have ever read. It's just a beautiful book. Watson begins the novel with an epigraph from Flaubert--and then proceeds to give us a "deceptively simple" (as Andrea Barrett notes) story that equals the Frenc ...more
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, r-fiction
This is one of the most beautiful books I've read in the last year. Watson's descriptions of rural Mississippi are divine; his writing is stunning. Not to mention, all of his characters are both realistic and likable with their flaws and vices complementing their good hearts.

Jane's story is both sorrowful and inspiring. She has a quiet power as she grows up and learns about her condition, and all of her limitations. We get to enjoy her curious nature as she explores sexuality, romantic love, soc
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss Jane. Watson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest
Kasa Cotugno
Sometimes just when you need it, along comes a quiet book that reaffirms your view of humanity. Miss Jane Chisholm is born in 1915 with a birth abnormality that prevents her from engaging in normal social intercourse. How she chooses from a very early age to live her life without bitterness, with grace and dignity, is the underlying theme of this lovely story. Brad Watson loosely based his story on the circumstances in his great aunt's life, imbuing her with a love for nature and a strength that ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x2016-read
I picked this book up at the library because of its beautiful cover. I was so glad that the writing was beautiful, and told a story of the author's grand aunt, Jane, who was born with a birth defect that gave her incontinence and prevented her from having children. She was the youngest daughter of a farming family, living in the southern US before WWI. Jane learned to live with her condition, thanks to her doctor's constant support of her and her family.

The above description doesn't do justice t
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Miss Jane touched my heart! Story telling at its finest, intrigued by the subject matter and the beauty of the writing. I loved it!
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
What a truly unique and touching story. I am fascinated that a man wrote the story of Jane and her unique situation. He broached aspects of her situation that my mind wondered and would not necessarily found answers on its own. I thank him for that. The book has a beautiful cover of a peacock. You must read the book to understand it's meaning.
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Play Book Tag: Miss Jane- Brad Watson 4.5 stars 1 17 Sep 19, 2016 01:02PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Brad Watson teaches creative writing at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. His first collection, Last Days of the Dog-Men, won the Sue Kauffman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts & Letters; his first novel, The Heaven of Mercury, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and his Ali
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“Life is not fair in that way or any other way. We are who and what we are.” 12 likes
“She loved most being in the woods with the diffused light and the quiet there. Such a stillness, with just the pecking of ground birds and forest animals, the flutter of wings, the occasional skittering of squirrels playing up and down a tree. The silent, imperceptible unfurling of spring buds into blossom. She felt comfortable there. As if nothing could be unnatural in that place, within but apart from the world.” 10 likes
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