Skinny Dipping in a Dirty Pond by Lis Anna-Langston

Cotton Alexander is the narrator of this novel and I have to say that I loved her story – not so much what she was relating and what she has lived through but her voice throughout the narrative itself. She is an intelligent, resourceful little girl essentially but she is living a life with people who are, it has to be said, completely crazy and amongst some of the worst role models a young girl could ever encounter. However, it is not a tale of woe or self-pity or “what ifs”. It is actually in many ways a tale of love and endurance and resilience in the face of things which instinctively a little girl knows are wrong but is not aware enough to quite come to terms with the severity of her situation. For her, it is her norm.

The book contains Cotton’s story of her childhood and all that she recalls from it. Her life is spent with her mother but it is clear that she has no time at all for her daughter and I mean at all. Luckily, she has a grandmother who is a constant in her life along with her uncle, Stan and her mother’s current boyfriend, Dave. Her grandmother’s house provides her with a bolthole when she needs to escape her mother but even here there is danger.

This is quite a unique story told in a different way. It feels like it is being told through the eyes of a young girl, as she sees it. That’s not to say that it is babyish or immature – far from it. What Lis Anna-Langston does is provide the highlights and lowlights of Cotton’s life and so, it is selective in what it tells us although there is a clear purpose to it.

It also created a feeling in me which I can’t quite explain. At times, the book filled me with horror and there were times where I could have cried out loud at the unfairness of it all; and yet, it is darkly humorous throughout and this is where its unique quality comes from, I think: the fact that this could have been a book centred on despair and misery and it isn’t. It is a well-related tale of someone’s life told to convey that life lived and it does this brilliantly.

I have to read more of her work and soon.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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