Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson

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I'm a murder-mystery buff ... but I have never read one like this before.

I watch a lot of television, and a lot of that is the Court TV Channel. As I started reading Jane: A Murder I thought the story was a bit familiar. I was right. I had seen this story on television, but I can honestly say it had nowhere the impact of this book by Maggie Nelson.

Though the murder of Jane Mixer, the author's aunt, is officially unsolved, Jane is believed to be the third victim of a serial killer in Michigan. Nelson attempts to reconstruct the life that existed before the death of this first-year law student and the struggles of those who survived after. Nelson deals with the long shadow Jane's violent death cast over the lives of those who struggled to survive and the effects on Nelson herself. Not only do we get a page-turner crime story, we are also led into Nelson's questions about young womanhood, the nature of violence, and the importance of identification and empathy.

Jane: A Murder does not fit neatly into any one genre, however. It is part memoir, part novel, and part poetry. Nelson builds the picture of her Aunt Jane through a collage of poetry (her own), newspaper articles, Jane's diaries and police reports. I am glad I did not read this book when I first got it. I doubt I would have appreciated the structure if I had. Through the mixing of genre, Nelson presents the reader with a much more emotionally packed book than either a straight memoir or crime-story would have. It breaks, also, the boundaries for poetry and shows the reader just what poetry is truly capable of doing.

The book is 240 pages, and I sat and read it straight through in one evening. As a writer, I know I will be returning to it as a model of what can be done in writing. As a reader, I also shall be returning to the story that is both brutal and delicate at the same time. No, this is not one of those books that I shall be passing on, but it is one that I highly recommend.

Review by Jewel

Review by Jewel

Title: Jane: A Murder
Author: Maggie Nelson
Publisher: Soft Skull Press (March 12, 2005)
ISBN-10: 1932360719
ISBN-13: 978-1932360714

 

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