Foreword Reviews

The Precious Jules

A Maryland family navigates the return of their institutionalized daughter in The Precious Jules, Shawn Nocher’s contemplative novel about duty, love, and sibling fears.

Thirty-two years ago, Ella Jules—a child challenged because of an accident at birth—was sent by her parents to the Beechwood Institute, where Lynetta, a staff member, grew to be her fond guardian. Now, upon the institute’s closure in 2009, Ella’s parents start the legal process to reclaim her. Meanwhile, Ella’s bewildered adult siblings—including her beautiful twin; her youngest sister, who’s never met her; and her brothers—converge on the family homestead, each with lingering doubts about the wisdom of Ella’s return.

Alternating perspectives spanning decades depict how Ella’s absence shaped each member of the Jules clan; the harsh, outdated practices inside of Beechwood, and its kudzu-entangled decline; and the past’s lingering effects. A haunting story concerned with a family’s outward perfection, and their hidden guilt about the deliberate estrangement of one of their own, this keen, emotional story crescendos when a traumatic memory is revealed.

The Jules’s reactions range from residual terror about Ella’s former violent outbursts, to loss, resignation, sympathy, and maternal pain; their experiences inform their present perspectives, imbuing the telling with shameful self-justifications and difficult love. The siblings’ current love relationships, too, bear the imprints of Ella’s banishment.

Without glossing over the challenges that are involved in taking care of a special needs child, the novel is wise about people’s reluctance to admit darker emotions, even while they ache for understanding. Throughout, Lynetta stands out as the person who has known Ella the best; her sections are a poignant exploration of loyal attachment.

The Precious Jules is a captivating family novel about impossible atonement and learning to accept the natural outcomes of rending decisions.

Reviewed by Karen Rigby

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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