‘Miss Jane’ by Brad Watson (2016) – 279 pages
‘Miss Jane’ is the story of a doctor and one of the babies, a girl, he delivered. The baby isn’t perfect; she has a urological and genital birth defect. Jane Chisholm will be incontinent and will always be incontinent unless some surgical procedure is found to fix the problem. The time is 1916, and there will be no fix for this problem for a very long time. She also will be unable to conceive children.
“This book is dedicated to the memory of my Great-Aunt Mary Ellis “Jane” Clay.”
This novel is an amazing work of empathy. It moved me greatly, and that is the most I expect from any novel. It is true to what I have seen so far in life as only the best novels are.
Despite her defect, Jane turns out to be a strong person. A fortune teller tells her mother the following about her then 16-year old daughter Jane:
“She is strong. Even stronger than you.” Miss Eugenia said then. “She may even be relatively happy in life. Unlike you.”
Some people seem to have a talent for happiness; some people don’t. Some people learn this talent later. It does not appear to be directly or even closely related to one’s actual life circumstances.
Her parents on their Mississippi farm are not particularly sensitive or empathetic to Jane’s situation, perhaps typical rural parents of that time. Soon after the birth the father first notices the problem:
“Good lord,” Chisholm said. “What trouble have we gone and brought into this world now?”
“Trouble for you and Mrs. Chisholm,” the midwife said. “But more trouble for the child, I expect, poor thing.”
Jane’s older sister has her own life to live. More than anyone, it is the doctor who delivered Jane who takes an interest in Jane’s plight and does what he can to help her.
As a girl, Jane does attempt to go to grade school but there are embarrassing incidents, and after a short time she decides to not go back anymore and she stays home on the family farm. She chooses to go about her days alone for the most part. As the doctor puts it,
“In my opinion many I’ve known would’ve been better off following their solitary natures.”
Later though, despite her continuing condition, there is dancing and romance in her life. These scenes in the novel are deeply touching considering what has gone before.
This is a wonderful story of a person who is quietly but persistently heroic. Perhaps you have relatives going back over the years whose life stories are also profound and enlightening.
Grade : A+