Friday, June 16, 2023

Gin Phillips' Family Law

I've been reading Gin Phillips' books since  The Well and the Mine, her debut novel. I'm fascinated that the Alabama author writes such a range of fiction. Come in and Cover Me is centered primarily around an archeological dig, with the protagonist collecting remnants of pottery of a particular indigenous woman. That novel incorporated elements of magical realism and Springsteen lyrics. Phillips' novel Fierce Kingdom places the protagonist and her son at a zoo (I'm assuming the one in Birmingham) with an active shooter on the loose.

Her latest novel Family Law is set in Alabama in the 70s. The primary protagonist Lucia is a successful family lawyer, a role that often puts her in the crosshairs of angry spouses. 

Rachel, a girl whose mother comes to the law office to discuss the possibility of a divorce, finds Lucia's home and the two develop a friendship, putting both of them, as well as Lucia's husband, in danger. 

Once Rachel is introduced, Phillips alternates between her point of view and Lucia's. Rachel's navigation of high school dynamics and life with her distracted mother show a mature but believable self-awareness.

Phillips develops interesting characters and addresses challenges to a woman who chooses a career path unusual for females at the time in history, but she doesn't make her characters into stereotypes. The nuances in her marriage are well-drawn. Even Lucia's dog has a significant role. 

This book will appeal to readers of Joshilyn Jackson, who also reads the audiobook of Family Law, a bonus, in my opinion.

I will confess that I was particularly intrigued when one of Rachel's school friends shared a name with one of my former students, a young woman who just happens to be a friend of Gin Phillips. Coincidence? I think not.



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