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A False Sense of Well Being by Jeanne Braselton




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Some of the finest works of fiction present the reality that things are not often the way they appear. It’s rare to find a first novel that captures our interest and drags us along as a character follows a twisted road to happiness. Jeanne Braselton’s first novel, A False Sense of Well Being, captivated me. Perhaps it was the opening sentence by protagonist Jessie Maddox that said the journey through this book would be fascinating: “I was married eleven years before I started imagining how different life would be if my husband were dead.” A few pages later, Braselton tells us,

“We have become one of those couples that spend their days moving around within the institution of marriage like the planets orbiting the sun. There is an unseen and unfelt gravitational force that keeps us locked together in out own elliptical paths, but we remain far enough away from each other so we won’t collide. The space across our long, well-polished dining room table is becoming wider and wider.
Despite what my dreams insist on telling me, my husband is a good man.
Turner Maddox is a good man.
A pillar of the community.

That’s what everyone says. Good is what he is, going about his life quietly and with the kind of single-mindedness touted by business consultants and motivational speakers. He reads paperbacks that inevitably have exclamation points in their titles, 1001 Ways to Motivate Your Team! or Plan, Proceed & Win! and so on, ad nauseam, and reads them seriously. This is where he picked up the idea for that electronic scheduler. Some book told him that he needed one, top of the line for the on-the-go executive and all that, so he ran off to the nearest electronic gizmos store to get himself that very model, though buying it may have been one of the only on-the-go activities he’s enjoyed in years. I have fantasies of stuffing that scheduler down the garbage disposal, all the dates of his future grinding away in bytes down the drain.”

Life in the New South isn’t all comfy and lovey dovey. Braselton takes readers through Jessie’s many confessions and her struggle at middle life. We watch her take a long journey back home to imagine what could have been had other paths been taken. Throughout, Braselton keeps the emotional edge sharp, and her language is often perfect. It’s rare to discover such a fine first novel. Savor it.

Steve Hopkins, January 16, 2002


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