This book was great!-it succeeded on all levels. Successes of note:
1. Dialect! The dialect was smooth and seamless and crazily good. How did it get so good? Mostly through word choice, I think, plus some arrangement / grammar (“living down to Charlottesville,” etc ). Phonetics--the super-dangerous etching acid sometimes splattered disastrously all over dialogue--were used sparingly. I was so fully transported down South that after I had been reading, I came out with words I hadn't said in years.
2. Narrative structure: The story is narrated explicitly from multiple character perspectives, in chapters titled with the characters’ names. I don't know why, but I enjoy reading this device. Also, the first chapter occurs at the "end" of the story, then the story jumps back in time and proceeds forward in a linear fashion until we finally meet the scene we saw in the beginning. Despite / because of this, there is some good tension in the story.
This is Jordan's first book, and she has gotten lots of attention for it. It won the Bellwether Prize, founded by Barbara Kingsolver, for literature of social change. When She Woke, Jordan's next novel, is forthcoming this October.