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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
Jerkwater is a work of literary fiction penned by author Jamie Zerndt. Written for adults due to its complex themes and occasional explicit language, this intense personal drama is led by our three central characters as they experience grief in very different ways. In an area of Wisconsin where the waters are in contention between the Native American population and the state to gain fishing rights, Shawna Reynolds’s dislike of white people continues to escalate. Her neighbor Kay has recently lost her husband, and her drinking is escalating because of it. Kay’s son Douglas forms the third perspective as he struggles to keep the family business going whilst dealing with his own feelings for his father.
Modern racial tension tales are a popular read right now, and you can’t go wrong with the complex issues and heartfelt emotions that author Jamie Zerndt brings to the table with this excellent novel. I especially enjoyed Shawna’s journey and narration among the alternating perspectives, because her character is far from saintly but is also totally real and relatable. The issue of grief is dealt with from multiple angles and compassionately so, allowing us deep into the psyches of the characters as they process what loss means to them. The prose shifts delicately with each character, keeping an overall tone of discovery, but picking up subtle ticks of behavior from different personalities to enhance them. Overall, Jerkwater is an accomplished work of literary fiction certain to please fans of personal drama and emotional exploratory fiction.