Desert Isle Keeper
Daughters of Jubilation
Daughters of Jubilation is a powerful read. Imbued with a beautiful, graceful sense of strength, it comes out swinging with a heroine who has a wonderfully memorable voice.
Sixteen-year-old Evalene – Evvie – Deschamps is growing up in a Jim Crow Era mid-south, helping to care for her younger twin half-sisters, crushing on cool older kid Clay – whom she’s been eyeing forever – and babysitting on the side for a woman she can’t stand when her Jubilation arrives and quite literally shakes up her world. Her growing psychic powers uproot a tree and brings true her wish for a family of racists to experience an accident. Evvie saves the life of those racists and ends up being hailed as a heroine in the local paper. With that, she realizes her Jubilation has begun – she’s the latest in a long line of generational magic makers, going all the way back through her maternal bloodline.
Evvie is well aware that this family gift is part and parcel of being a Deschamps woman (her mother calls it a curse). It manifests early as blackouts that happen here and there in their youth, and they begin to jube on the regular sometime in their teens. It’s something they rarely talk about outside of their close family circle, and each woman in the Deschamps family has a different opinion about their powers. Evvie decides to follow along her caustic, magic-loving Grandma Attie’s path – she’s going to practice her gifts instead of avoiding magic and the practice thereof like her own more religious mother. Evvie is galvanized into action when the man who raped her (this happens before the book opens) begins to stalk her, threatening her sisters with violence. Training under Attie, Evvie must learn how to hex her stalker and protect her loved ones before it’s too late.
The worldbuilding alone is worth the price of admission to Daughters of Jubilation. Corthron’s approach toward magic – and how it affects each of the women in the Deschamps family for better or worse, is multilayered and a great example of letting characters drive your universe instead of the other way around.
Aside from its exploration of magic, the book combines family feelings, generational conflicts, the swoony feeling of youthful falling in love, and the bigger picture of life in the racist hell that was the segregated south in the early 1960s. You can feel the heat of the summer sun, the way it wavers up from car hoods, the sound of owls in the trees, and the smell of tomatoes frying.
Evvie is wonderful – complicated, tough, blunt, romantic, warm, bright and impassioned. She’s funny – the kind of person who calls her period “Ambushina” – and I loved her. Just as wonderful is her no-nonsense yet loving mother, and wise but tough and acerbic Attie. Her playful and realistically messy twin sisters are funny and both come off as well-rounded individuals.
Evvie’s more wallflower-like friend Anne Marie – who is suffering from abuse at the hands of her uncle and trying to puzzle out a crush on a fellow female classmate – is the quieter and more subdued half of their friendship. And then there’s Clay, who has a beautiful, playful and touching romance with Evvie with a complicated and sad conclusion.
There’s not much more I can say about the story without spoiling it, but Daughters of Jubilation is one of those books where you’ll be more than glad you were left to take the ride alone and discover the journey for yourself.
Buy it at: Amazon or shop at your local independent bookstore
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NOTE: The book includes references to pre-book rape, semi-explicit sexual encounters, depictions of racial violence, physical abuse, graphic (and in several cases richly enjoyable) murder, racism – including usage of the n-word, depictions of stalking and period-typical sexism and a scene where our heroine tries to force her whole period to happen in a single moment and almost passes out from the bleeding.