Set in a prosperous suburb of Maryland in 2009, The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher (A Hand to Hold in Deep Water) is an engrossing, character-rich drama centered on Ella Jules, a woman with intellectual disabilities, and a family dispute about her ongoing care.
Ella has lived in the state-run Beechwood Institute for more than three decades. The institute is about to close, and guardianship of Ella has been granted to Lynetta Lezinsky, the loving, devoted nurse who's cared for her since she was eight years old--and whom Ella adores in return. Consumed by guilt for sending her daughter away all those years ago, Hillary Jules is determined to bring her home, despite the strong objections of her family. Ella has five siblings; Nocher shines a spotlight on each to explore the relationship, or lack thereof, with their disabled sister, and to examine the "strange jagged hole" left by her departure for Beechwood.
The Precious Jules alternates between the past and present, painting a vivid portrait of a family steeped in privilege and struggling with the emotional fallout of institutionalizing a child, while gradually revealing the shocking events that led to the difficult decision. Hillary and Lynetta, the two women most emotionally vested in Ella's well-being, become adversaries when Hillary files a guardianship appeal with the state of Maryland. As the Jules offspring descend on their childhood home to talk sense into their mother, each with their own reason for fearing Ella's return, long-guarded secrets with horrifying implications tumble forth, and the ground begins to shift beneath a family still coming to terms with their troubling past. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer