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Low Country: A Southern Memoir

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The Glass Castle meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this incandescent debut memoir of one family's changing fortunes in the Low Country of South Carolina, a tale inseparable from the region's storms and shipwrecks, ghosts and folklore. J. Nicole Jones is the only daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, a family that grew rich building the hotels and sea The Glass Castle meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this incandescent debut memoir of one family's changing fortunes in the Low Country of South Carolina, a tale inseparable from the region's storms and shipwrecks, ghosts and folklore. J. Nicole Jones is the only daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, a family that grew rich building the hotels and seafood restaurants that draw tourists to Myrtle Beach. But at home, she is surrounded by violence and capriciousness: a grandfather who beats his wife, a barman father who dreams of being a country music star. At one time, Jones's parents can barely afford groceries; at another, her volatile grandfather presents her with a fur coat. After a girlhood of extreme wealth and deep debt, of ghosts and folklore, of cruel men and unwanted spectacle, Jones finds herself face to face with an explosive possibility concerning her long-abused grandmother that she can neither speak nor shake. And through the lens of her own family's catastrophes and triumphs, Jones pays homage to the landscapes and legends of her childhood home, a region haunted by its history: Eliza Pinckney cultivates indigo, Blackbeard ransacks the coast, and the Gray Man paces the beach, warning of Hurricane Hazel.


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The Glass Castle meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this incandescent debut memoir of one family's changing fortunes in the Low Country of South Carolina, a tale inseparable from the region's storms and shipwrecks, ghosts and folklore. J. Nicole Jones is the only daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, a family that grew rich building the hotels and sea The Glass Castle meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this incandescent debut memoir of one family's changing fortunes in the Low Country of South Carolina, a tale inseparable from the region's storms and shipwrecks, ghosts and folklore. J. Nicole Jones is the only daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, a family that grew rich building the hotels and seafood restaurants that draw tourists to Myrtle Beach. But at home, she is surrounded by violence and capriciousness: a grandfather who beats his wife, a barman father who dreams of being a country music star. At one time, Jones's parents can barely afford groceries; at another, her volatile grandfather presents her with a fur coat. After a girlhood of extreme wealth and deep debt, of ghosts and folklore, of cruel men and unwanted spectacle, Jones finds herself face to face with an explosive possibility concerning her long-abused grandmother that she can neither speak nor shake. And through the lens of her own family's catastrophes and triumphs, Jones pays homage to the landscapes and legends of her childhood home, a region haunted by its history: Eliza Pinckney cultivates indigo, Blackbeard ransacks the coast, and the Gray Man paces the beach, warning of Hurricane Hazel.

30 review for Low Country: A Southern Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    This book is about the author growing up in South Carolina as part of a prominent family. But at home, she is surrounded by violence. At some point, she has to face her abusive grandfather. Her family has many interesting, weird, and unusual experiences surrounded by lore where a pirate landed and a hurricane. Even though the family is the main character, South Carolina has such a rich and often dark history and becomes a central character in the book. There was a scene in the book where the auth This book is about the author growing up in South Carolina as part of a prominent family. But at home, she is surrounded by violence. At some point, she has to face her abusive grandfather. Her family has many interesting, weird, and unusual experiences surrounded by lore where a pirate landed and a hurricane. Even though the family is the main character, South Carolina has such a rich and often dark history and becomes a central character in the book. There was a scene in the book where the author listened to the radio with her dad, knowing he wants to be a songwriter. Then we see his repeated trips to Nashville, trying to make it. Eventually, he sells a song to Hank Williams Jr. and becomes a big country music star. We watch as the daughter of a country music star explores her roots and the topography of her native land in this coming-of-age story of a past she's not always proud of. To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at: https://zibbyowens.com/transcript/j-n...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shannon A

    A debut memoir of beautifully intertwined vignettes that make it feel more like a ghost story than a life survived. Jones grew up in a world of hard contrasts and the way she tells of her experiences, you will find yourself utterly enthralled from the first page.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Hazen

    What an inspirational book of someone who has gone through so much in life - overcome so much in their childhood and so much struggle with mental health with the family and herself. I picked up this book not really sure what to expect and was not disappointed. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. Low Country A Southern Memoir by J. Nicole Jones is her debut memoir. It is a book about the south by a girl from South Carolina and it is as much about her own life as it is about the history and legends of the Low Country. Despite being from a prominent South Carolina family, Jones' story is one of abuse, betrayal and many, many secrets. Secret Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. Low Country A Southern Memoir by J. Nicole Jones is her debut memoir. It is a book about the south by a girl from South Carolina and it is as much about her own life as it is about the history and legends of the Low Country. Despite being from a prominent South Carolina family, Jones' story is one of abuse, betrayal and many, many secrets. Secrets about the abuse, affairs, cruelty and about not being able to afford groceries or a crib despite that prominent family heritage. Jones' descriptions of the landscape, the myths and legends and the people in her life are, alone, worth the price of the book. This is a book to be savored and I recommend it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Thompson

    I can’t believe that this is Jones’ first book. She is so completely confident in her writing style and in the story she is telling you that she has no fear dropping you into the middle of hurricanes, domestic disputes, and pirate adventures on a whim. “Low Country,” is a memoir of both a family and of a place - it draws you in with the ghost stories and myths that litter the Carolina coast, drawing parallels between the women in these myths and the mothers and grandmothers in our own lives that I can’t believe that this is Jones’ first book. She is so completely confident in her writing style and in the story she is telling you that she has no fear dropping you into the middle of hurricanes, domestic disputes, and pirate adventures on a whim. “Low Country,” is a memoir of both a family and of a place - it draws you in with the ghost stories and myths that litter the Carolina coast, drawing parallels between the women in these myths and the mothers and grandmothers in our own lives that have to bare the consequences of men’s actions. Jones’ passive voice draws out long sentences, letting them linger and stretch like summer days spent on the beach, watching the waves roll in. The ocean is calm until it is not. Her parents’ marriage is filled with love, until it is not. Her grandfather is rich, until he is not. The shifts of the Carolina shoreline mirror the shifts in her own life, and ultimately this is a book about a family and a place that has weathered their storms. I would recommend this to everyone, but especially for fans of “Educated,” and for anyone who’s ever lived in a place that is held together between the tensions of the insiders and the outsiders, the haves and the have-nots.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dallas Shattuck

    Yesterday, I finished reading Low Country, a memoir about the author’s experiences growing up in South Carolina. As you all know, I love reading memoirs, and this one was no exception! This memoir discusses Jones’ childhood—the good and the bad. She writes about her family’s financial troubles, her granddaddy’s physical/verbal/emotional abuse, her father’s journey to becoming a country singer, and growing up as one of the only women in a large, male-dominated, Southern family. I loved the author’ Yesterday, I finished reading Low Country, a memoir about the author’s experiences growing up in South Carolina. As you all know, I love reading memoirs, and this one was no exception! This memoir discusses Jones’ childhood—the good and the bad. She writes about her family’s financial troubles, her granddaddy’s physical/verbal/emotional abuse, her father’s journey to becoming a country singer, and growing up as one of the only women in a large, male-dominated, Southern family. I loved the author’s writing stye and how the stories flowed together. I enjoyed how the author weaved Southern folklore, pirate tales, and ghost stories throughout the book. It made this memoir really unique! The timeline is non-linear and there are a lot of family members discussed, so I was confused at some points during the first half of the book. But I eventually figured out who everyone was. Also, there are several stories about snakes, which isn’t a big deal...except that I’m terrified of snakes and am now 100% certain I will never live in South Carolina 🤣🤣 Overall, if you like memoirs and/or want to learn more about growing up in South Carolina, then I highly recommend this book! Thank you @catapult for the gifted copy!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily Gordy

    Having spent a lot of time in the Lowcountry, I wanted to love this book. Jones does an excellent job capturing the humid, fantastical nature of the region, but what the book has in lyricism it lacks in substance. Her writing is gorgeous and does everything in its power to make something out of what is ultimately a largely uneventful narrative, but I found myself waiting for everything to click. It never did. This may have been better as a collection of essays as the varying family tales, ghost Having spent a lot of time in the Lowcountry, I wanted to love this book. Jones does an excellent job capturing the humid, fantastical nature of the region, but what the book has in lyricism it lacks in substance. Her writing is gorgeous and does everything in its power to make something out of what is ultimately a largely uneventful narrative, but I found myself waiting for everything to click. It never did. This may have been better as a collection of essays as the varying family tales, ghost stories and history lessons felt loosely connected, if at all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    J. Nicole Jones presents a memoir of her family in this tale of life in South Carolina when you're the poor relations. There are some dark secrets as well as abuse in this multigenerational tale. It's rich with local atmospherics. It's difficult to review memoirs because it feels as though you are judging someone's life and life choices but that's not the case here. Jones is revealing her family's history in which she is a player, not the main focus. A little research into her turns up an essay J. Nicole Jones presents a memoir of her family in this tale of life in South Carolina when you're the poor relations. There are some dark secrets as well as abuse in this multigenerational tale. It's rich with local atmospherics. It's difficult to review memoirs because it feels as though you are judging someone's life and life choices but that's not the case here. Jones is revealing her family's history in which she is a player, not the main focus. A little research into her turns up an essay she wrote on the subject of memoirs, which is worth a read as a companion to this volume. The writing reflects her MFA. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leig

    DNF @ 50% One of the better pieces of writing advice I’ve heard lately is that each chapter of a book should have an internal arc: a point of origin, a tension explored, and a push away from it into the next plot beat at the end. I’m sorry to say I didn’t feel this memoir followed this advice, and that the book didn’t work for me for primarily this reason. The weak structure may have been an intentional commentary—how intertwined the threads of family felt that we as readers wandered across gener DNF @ 50% One of the better pieces of writing advice I’ve heard lately is that each chapter of a book should have an internal arc: a point of origin, a tension explored, and a push away from it into the next plot beat at the end. I’m sorry to say I didn’t feel this memoir followed this advice, and that the book didn’t work for me for primarily this reason. The weak structure may have been an intentional commentary—how intertwined the threads of family felt that we as readers wandered across generations without much warning or demarcation between narratives. But my, does it wander. We begin a chapter talking about the author’s parents and wind through her great grandfather’s death and the fates of some of her uncles before looping back to her grandmother again. This felt deeply muddy, and I’m afraid the lack of narrative drive didn’t engage me. I think it was a good conceit with ineffectual execution if it was an intentional tactic, and a pretty major shortcoming of writing and editing if not. I believe at its core that this work wanted to be semi-biographical fiction, and that abandonment of some memoir conventions has done it a disservice. Early in the book, the author elects to overly change the setting of her parents’ meeting to one that suited her the narrative better (“I’d like to pretend, though, that they met at a different bar. One that plays a more consistent role in my family’s history. … The view’s better and the drinks are stronger. Such a well-meaning and convenient move puts us closer to the Grand Strand tradition of laying claim to obscurities.”) I am personally resistant to the intentional romanticization of history, even to begin a romantic story; this may be a “me” problem. But at its core, this is a story about intergenerational trauma. Why are we doing this? The book balances that exploration against that a strong sense of romanticization in general, here called “a well-meaning … claim to obscurities.” I understand this; the family stories may passed down to the author with that same romantic air, and that seems hugely worthy of exploration. But this intentional slip into the same habit creates the impression that the book as a whole had a larger romantic project in mind. The writing, in part owing to its structural shortcomings, was flawed. I think the author has a lot of potential and that shines through in some passages. There was some grace in the flowery passages, but the words were often overtaxed, the beauty shoved into and lost within overlong paragraphs. Some language was a bit too enamoured of its own conceit. Obviously this book didn’t work for me on a few different levels. My rating comes down to who I would recommend this book to: if you’re looking for meandering, richly written anecdotes loosely oriented around meditations on gendered expectations from a rich-poor white family in South Carolina, this is the book for you. I am not strictly sure there was a story worth telling here in the memoir format—but it may be worth noting, given the author’s literary flairs, that I’d have read the hell out of a ghost story with similar details. Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    This has been memoir Monday for me. Jones talks about her childhood and early history in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She describes her grandparents, on both sides, and also the fractured relationship of her parents. It was an interesting read. I thought the most interesting people were her Nana and maternal grandfather. The author had a tendency to meander off the story, highlighting local lore, stories, and history. While some of it was interesting, it was a detraction from the main story. Th This has been memoir Monday for me. Jones talks about her childhood and early history in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She describes her grandparents, on both sides, and also the fractured relationship of her parents. It was an interesting read. I thought the most interesting people were her Nana and maternal grandfather. The author had a tendency to meander off the story, highlighting local lore, stories, and history. While some of it was interesting, it was a detraction from the main story. Thanks to NetGalley and Catapult for the early read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dree

    Jones grew up as the only daughter in a family of men. She had 3 brothers, her father had many brothers, and his father had many brothers. The Jones family is known in Myrtle Beach, SC, for owning and running many restaurants, bars, and motels--for catering to the tourist trade. They have money. Or, her abusive grandfather had money, which he funneled into his businesses and then hired family to manage them. Jones grew up in and around restaurants, but usually her family did not have money. Her Jones grew up as the only daughter in a family of men. She had 3 brothers, her father had many brothers, and his father had many brothers. The Jones family is known in Myrtle Beach, SC, for owning and running many restaurants, bars, and motels--for catering to the tourist trade. They have money. Or, her abusive grandfather had money, which he funneled into his businesses and then hired family to manage them. Jones grew up in and around restaurants, but usually her family did not have money. Her youngest brother's difficult birth and a serious car accident left her parents saddled with debt. Her father's constant dream of being a Nashville songwriter (and since he did get a Grammy nomination, he was not a failure), which so often came up against the realities of money and work and family. Her maternal grandfather bailed her parents out of a foreclosure at least once. He was always available when they needed him, but pride kept that from happening too often. In this memoir, this is what she discusses--growing up of money but with none. Her parents' and youngest brother's medical issues due to the birth and the accident. Her paternal grandfather was a mean man who beat and insulted his wife and played favorites among his many sons and grandsons. Her wonderful Nana put up with this man for decades, but gave Nicole her love for stories and reading. The Low Country itself is a character here--hurricanes, ghosts, pirates, stories, tourists and the tourist trade, beauty pageants. ———— I thought this was interesting, but could not relate to most of it--not the large family, not the important family, not the nasty grandfather or the beauty pageants or the tourists or the weather. I think there is very much an audience out there that will LOVE this book, I'm just not part of it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    There were aspects of this memoir that I really connected with, but overall it was a bit underwhelming. It was not clear to me what the primary story/purpose of this memoir was, as we bounce between family members, Southern coastal folklore (we'll get to that in a minute), and hints about Jones' eventual departure from the region without a throughline connecting the disparate chapters. I also found Jones as a character (if that's the right word to use) to be quite a passive person throughout, an There were aspects of this memoir that I really connected with, but overall it was a bit underwhelming. It was not clear to me what the primary story/purpose of this memoir was, as we bounce between family members, Southern coastal folklore (we'll get to that in a minute), and hints about Jones' eventual departure from the region without a throughline connecting the disparate chapters. I also found Jones as a character (if that's the right word to use) to be quite a passive person throughout, and I wanted more about her personal perceptions of her family members and the takeaways from the experiences she's had with them (we got a bit of that with her maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother, but I wanted more). My favorite parts by far were her incorporations of folklore from the region, including ghost stories, pirates, and hurricane lore, as the folklore of the South has always been something of interest for me. On a related note, the writing as a whole was quite beautiful and I would love to see Jones take on the fiction form or even a more self-contained personal essay. Thank you to the author and Catapult for providing me with a free early e-copy of this work through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Low Country comes out on April 13.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Thank you to Catapult for the copy of this book I received via a Goodreads giveaway. I generally really like memoirs and multi-generational stories, but I had a hard time engaging with this one, even though there were definitely some interesting life events and characters. I appreciated individual sentences more than I did the overall story. However, if you like memoirs, Jones's style of memoir is interesting to compare to others I've read. The author's "let's pretend that this happened or didn' Thank you to Catapult for the copy of this book I received via a Goodreads giveaway. I generally really like memoirs and multi-generational stories, but I had a hard time engaging with this one, even though there were definitely some interesting life events and characters. I appreciated individual sentences more than I did the overall story. However, if you like memoirs, Jones's style of memoir is interesting to compare to others I've read. The author's "let's pretend that this happened or didn't happen" asides to the reader were unusual and felt a bit heavy-handed to me. I might be interested to hear about the author's life in the present and how these events and people from her past impacted the way she lives her life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    Low Country is an engaging memoir by J. Nicole Jones recalling a childhood in Myrtle Beach, SC that is filled with country music, pirate stories, ghosts, and a family fraught with dysfunction. She manages to capture the good, the bad, and the ugly of her family. "The South does not own tragedy, but it sure seems to have taken a liking to the region." 3.5 stars Thank you to Catapult and NetGalley for this ARC. Low Country is an engaging memoir by J. Nicole Jones recalling a childhood in Myrtle Beach, SC that is filled with country music, pirate stories, ghosts, and a family fraught with dysfunction. She manages to capture the good, the bad, and the ugly of her family. "The South does not own tragedy, but it sure seems to have taken a liking to the region." 3.5 stars Thank you to Catapult and NetGalley for this ARC.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    ARC for review. EPD April 13, 2021 She sounds like my people. Looking forward to this.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joan Irey

    Really depressing, negative book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paula

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Pennebaker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bob McKenzie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Delman

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kailey Brennan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Maya

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy

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