Home > 2010, 21st Century, American Literature, Crime Fiction, Miller Jax, Polar, TBR20, Thriller > Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller

Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller

Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller (2015) French title: Les infâmes

I have a signed copy of Freedom’s Child by the bubbly Jax Miller who attended Quais du Polar last year. I’m going to reassure non-French speaking readers right away: this book is available in English. It was even written in English! Yay!

Freedom Oliver used to be Vanessa Delaney. She lives in Painter, Oregon and she used to live in Mastic Beach, New York. She used to be the mother of Ethan and Layla. They are now named Mason and Rebekah and were adopted by a preacher and his wife in Goshen, Kentucky. There are a lot of “used to” in Freedom’s life since she’s been living under the Witness Protection program for eighteen years. Her husband, Mark Delaney was murdered. First accused of killing him, Vanessa is later released and her brother-in-law Matthew, Mark’s brother, is convicted of the crime.

Freedom is a waitress in a bar, she tends to drown her sorrows in alcohol and follows her children’s life from afar, thanks to Facebook.  She doesn’t live, she survives.

Two simultaneous events will break her shell of a life. After 18 years in prison, Matthew is released and wants to take revenge. He managed to learn where Vanessa was hidden and with the help of his brother Luke, he intends to kidnap Freedom’s children to get to her. The other event that puts Freedom’s life upside down is that Rebekah goes missing. Now Freedom is on a mission, she’s determined to travel from Oregon to Kentucky to find her daughter. Mason, Rebekah’s brother, is also on his way. He is estranged from his adoptive family because their views on religion differ. As the book progresses, we discover that Virgil and Carol Paul, the adoptive family, have founded a cult and are convinced that God speaks to Virgil and gives him instructions.

And that’s all I’ll say about the plot.

Freedom’s Child follows several subplots and strands and they all join nicely in the end. I enjoyed Miller’s style, her vivid descriptions of places, like here in Kentucky:

About forty minutes after leaving the Bluegrass, Mason and Peter enter the Goshen Police Department, a one-room jail that dates back to the 1800s with a pillory and whipping post on the small patch of grass in front of the building, a reminder that Goshen held fast to outdated diligence and iron-fisted penalties to criminals and sinners alike, as far as modern law would allow.

For a French –and I suspect for a European in general— this is a very American novel. There’s the Witness Protection Program for once but mostly, it’s Goshen, its sheriff and its preacher than seem so outdated that you wonder if they are plausible characters. Jax Miller describes Goshen as…

A place so backward that the pursuit of justice became its own version of injustice, as seen in the occasional lynch mob that seeks their own righteousness by back-alley vigilantism like beatings and chasing out of town. A place where God’s grace became a weapon of suppression and acquiescence used by men in authority, big fish in small ponds who have nothing to do better than sit at home, boost their own egos, and jerk off to their own power trips.

Not where you’d want to go on holiday. Goshen and Virgil Paul reminded me of Hell on Church Street by Jake Hinkson, a very dark novel with a religious serial killer set in Arkansas. I don’t know how Americans see Kentucky, but hick seems to be often associated to its town names. Kentucky is the state that Kingsolver’s character Taylor leaves behind in The Bean Tree. She keeps repeating there’s nothing to do in Kentucky where Kingsolver herself was born and raised. And here Jax Miller doesn’t help Kentucky’s reputation. You sure don’t want to cross path with Virgil Paul, a sociopath that could only be born in the Bible Belt. These preachers are a genuine American species, there’s nothing like this in France or they’re considered as a cult.

I noticed that the Delaney brothers are named after the Evangelists, Luke, Mark, Matthew and the preacher’s last name was Paul. We have the four of them and they are dangerous and unbalanced criminals. The last and disabled Delaney brother is named Peter, and he’s the most humane one, the one who’ll help Freedom and in a sense, he had the keys to her paradise. Some things might be a bit too obvious and after reading Leaving Las Vegas, I’m not sure Freedom is a convincing alcoholic. That said, this is Jax Miller’s debut thriller and I’m sure she’ll polish her skills in the future. I did enjoy the ride and rooted for Freedom all along.

PS: For the anecdote, I’ll say that describing something as eggshell white doesn’t work at all for a French. Here, eggs don’t have white shells!

  1. July 18, 2017 at 12:55 am

    I would most likely pass on this due to the religious bits which may not be that much but still put me off–not that the plot is religious but just characters that think that way put me off

    Like

    • July 21, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      I can understand your point.
      The plot is not religious but the man is a sociopath disguised in a zealot.
      The preachers phenomenon is something we don’t have in France and it always puzzles me.

      Like

      • July 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm

        The French got rid of their preacher-types back in 17th century.

        The American versions – the ones who live in the Kentucky hill country – are mostly the descendants of Scots. One of Walter Scott’s best novels, Old Mortality, is about the same phenomenon. “A sociopath disguised in a zealot” – yes, that is in Scott’s book, too. And the Scott novel is set in 1679!

        Like

        • July 21, 2017 at 11:12 pm

          I never put the Huguenots in the preachers category. That’s an interesting thought.

          Thanks for the additional info. I have to confess I’ve never read Walter Scott. His books never appealed to me but I should try one.

          Like

  2. July 19, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Yes, super American.

    Americans see Kentucky in two opposing ways. The Kentucky of Louisville and Lexington, the world of horse-racing and bourbon, is wealthy and sophisticated, with a homegrown aristocracy. But eastern Kentucky is the world of white poverty, closed coal mines, and little evangelical churches. There was recently a best-selling memoir by a lawyer from that region. It’s titled Hillbilly Elegy.

    Like

    • July 21, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks for your explanation, Tom.
      Jax Miller’s book must be more in eastern Kentucky, then.
      I suppose that every countries has places like this, whether the reputation of the places is deserved or not. In France, the North has a reputation of being poor and not educated, with the exception of cities like Lille. Books like The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis don’t help with this region’s image.

      Like

  3. July 19, 2017 at 11:29 am

    It sounds a bit busy what with a vengeful brother-in-law and a cult who may have taken a child. Shame the depiction of alcoholism doesn’t quite come off, but otherwise it sounds a reaosnably well done thriller. Not really my genre though.

    Have you seen The Night of the Hunter? Robert Mitchum giving a career defining performance (one of many for him of course) as a psychotic preacher?

    Like

    • July 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      Reading your comment, I realise that I failed to mention that the children are grownups at the time the story starts.
      It is a bit busy and the cult plot is the main one.

      It’s well done, a good reading time, entertaining.

      I haven’t seen The Night of the Hunter. I’ll look it up.

      Like

  1. No trackbacks yet.

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: