As a self-described “devout but very progressive Christian woman,” Joshilyn Jackson is interested in the act of redemption. “How far can you go into the black before you see the lights to call you home? Why do some people never see the lights? What saves us? What connects us?” she muses. She pursues that theme in her latest novel, Never Have I Ever (Morrow, July), a domestic thriller that asks: What if someone knew your worst secret and was ready to use it against you?
In a suburban women’s book group where life is sweet and uncomplicated, the dynamic changes when a new member joins who seems to know terrible truths about Amy Whey’s not-so-halcyon background. Filled with Jackson’s trademark dark humor, the novel follows a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game as Amy fights to save the life she’s so painstakingly built.
A New York Times bestselling author, Jackson says she writes to explore the questions that drive her life—motherhood, women, faith, and justice. “Storytelling is how I explain the world to myself,” she says. Her previous novels include gods in Alabama, Backseat Saints, and Almost Sisters.
To the redemption question, Jackson devotes herself to teaching creative writing and literature as a volunteer at Georgia’s women’s prison system with the nonprofit Reforming Arts, part of a re-entry program. She says, “We incarcerate more than anyone on the planet, more than dictatorships, and there is no road out of that. The women I have met in prison are so much more than their worst decision, and that informed Never Have I Ever. True, Amy has done something awful. But I don’t think anyone should be reduced to the worst thing they have ever done; they are human beings. I know I have done pretty crappy things. Does that make me without value?”
Jackson sends Valentines out to all the booksellers who have helped her in her quest to share her stories. “I have a career because of booksellers who show the love by handselling. My first novel didn’t make much of a splash initially, but the sellers picked it up and physically put it directly into the hands of readers. That book stayed at the same sales arc for a year instead of six weeks. I am deeply grateful that they used their voice and power to support my work.”
Today, 10:30–11 a.m. Joshilyn Jackson will sign at Table 13.