Wednesday, April 06, 2011

[Book Review] GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson

Fiction/Women's Fiction

Darletha reviews GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson (Warner Books, 2005)

This story begins with one of the best first liners: "There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus."

Chicago transplant, Arlene Fleet, has avoided Alabama, its gods, and all family gatherings since she graduated from high school ten years ago. After she killed Jim Beverly, the high school quarterback, she made a promise to God that she would stop fornicating, never lie, and never return to Possett, Alabama, if the body was never found. Unfortunately, Arlene’s past has arrived in Chicago in the form of Rose Mae Lolley.

Rose Mae, the missing quarterback's girlfriend, is searching for answers to his disappearance. Even worse, Arlene’s African-American boyfriend thinks it's time to be properly introduced to her family, despite warnings of their racist views. Arlene must decide if she is ready to travel down south to come to terms with her not-so-pretty past.

This was a funny but sad novel I couldn’t stop thinking about after I finished reading it. The story is told from Arlene’s perspective, utilizing flashbacks to pull the reader into her inner thoughts and her unexpected, sometimes disturbing, actions. Like many Southern novels, there are quirky but likeable characters. My favorite was Aunt Florence, the proud Southern Baptist who unloads a ton of guilt on Arlene with her sharp wit. Be prepared to laugh and cry because this novel pulls heavily on your emotions.

Darletha Matthews, South Branch Library

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