Sweet Jiminy - Kristin Gore

In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Jiminy Davis abruptly quits law school and flees Chicago for her grandmother Willa's farm in rural Mississippi. In search of peace and quiet, Jiminy instead stumbles upon more trouble and turmoil than she could have imagined. She is shocked to discover that there was once another Jiminy - the daughter of her grandmother's longtime housekeeper, Lyn, who was murdered along with Lyn's husband four decades earlier in a civil rights era hate crime. With the help of Lyn's nephew, Bo, Jiminy sets out to solve the cold case, to the dismay of those who would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.

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After suffering increasingly crippling anxiety, depression and extreme exhaustion, twenty-five year old Jiminy Davis decides to drop out of her Chicago law school and return to her grandmother Willa's farm in rural Fayeville, Mississippi. Once settled in, she stumbles upon a family mystery / unsolved crime from the 1960s featuring a different Jiminy. This other Jiminy was the daughter of Willa's black housekeeper, Lyn. Lyn's daughter and husband were murdered in a hate crime, but the killer was never brought forward. The local police instead decided to label the deaths as "accidental drowning".

 

 

 

Consistency was a virtue adults overrated so they didn't have to focus on how utterly boring everyday existence was.

 

Though law school might have proven to be too much, modern day Jiminy can't resist trying to solve this cold case, hopefully bringing justice to her namesake. Enlisting the help of Lyn's nephew, medical student Bo, Jiminy hits up the library's newspaper archives and jumps right in to interviewing the older citizens of Fayeville who knew and remembered 1960s Jiminy and her father. 

 

She learned to be quiet and small, to disappear into backgrounds, to suffocate her sentences before they could betray her. She learned to bottle herself up.

 

It won't take long for the reader to see modern day Jiminy going into her investigation with a cringe-inducing naivety. It seems that she just can't honestly fathom that racism would still exist in this day... I mean, we've progressed SO much, right?! Girl gets the shock of her life when she tries to start up something romantic with Bo and not even a full day of official coupledom passes between them before Bo & Jiminy come face-to-face with death threats from local KKK members (posing as "concerned citizens"). Jiminy also seems shocked that virtually no one in town, even now, wants to come forward with the truth. Why is everyone encouraging her to just leave the past in the past?

 

"Do I remind you of my mom? Do I seem like I'm going crazy?" she inquired anxiously.

Willa continued buttering her biscuit, and for a moment Jiminy wondered if she'd even heard. Jiminy had a tendency to speak too softly, and for all she knew, her grandmother might be going deaf as well. 

But just as Jiminy was about to repeat her question more loudly, Willa cleared her throat.

"You seem like you need a good, long rest," she said. "The world's what's gone crazy. You just got old enough to notice."

 

This is a pretty short novel, less than 300 pages. While it touches upon an important topic -- that racism is still very much a real issue in the world today -- for much of the novel Gore still treads pretty lightly around the issue, tiptoeing where you'd expect or hope to have her characters stomp in combat-ready. The plot itself also takes time to heat up. Much of this book just felt like it was left on simmer a little too long.

 

 

 

That said, the character development is actually decently done (if you're a patient reader), lyrical descriptions in parts, and there are some honestly moving scenes and truly great, memorable lines within the dialogue. This is one of those stories I'd recommend sticking with til the end (especially since it's a short read anyway) because the plot intensity definitely delivers in the closing chapters.