Crazy in Alabama

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Crazy in Alabama [Paperback]

Mark Childress
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 9, 1994
Comic and tragic, unique and outlandish, CRAZY IN ALABAMA is the story of two journeys--Lucille's from Industry, Alabama, to Los Angeles, to star on 'THE BEVERLY HILL BILLIES' and her 12-year-old nephew Peejoe's, who is about to discover two kinds of Southern justice, and what that means about the stories he's heard and the people he knows.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Family tumult and nationwide social unrest converge to shake the world of 12-year-old orphan Peejoe Bullis in the summer of 1965, "when everybody went crazy in Alabama." This wise, funny novel by the author of Tender opens as Peejoe's relatively tranquil life with his grandmother is jolted by the arrival of his Aunt Lucille, who is on her way to Hollywood to become a star after poisoning her husband (in the first of the book's many violent images, she pulls the dead man's severed head out of a tupperware container). Peejoe and his older brother Wiley move on to their Uncle Dove's home in Industry, Ala., where racial conflict brings frightening bloodshed as well as oratory from George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. Meanwhile, on the road and in California, the newly emancipated Lucille brings every ounce of her desirability and determination to bear on her quest for stardom. Childress tells his story through the masterfully crafted voice of the adult Peejoe reminiscing from his home in present-day San Francisco. He depicts each character with convincing detail and all the vividness of childhood memory; there is magic in his mixture of humor and pathos, boyish candor and time-earned understanding. The narrative has a unique gentleness that tempers even the most extreme horrific or comic events without dismissing or oversimplifying them. Terrible crimes go unpunished, and good people face tragedy--not always nobly--but this remains a tale of laughter and great hope, one not easily forgotten. Literary Guild featured alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The year is 1965. The place is a small town in the deep South. Having murdered her redneck husband, Lucille drops her six kids off at her mother's and heads for Hollywood to audition for a part in The Beverly Hillbillies . Now that his grandmother has others to care for, 11-year-old Peejoe goes off to live with an uncle a few towns away. The story is told in parallel narratives (first person as Peejoe relates his own life, third person as the boy learns about Lucille, his enthralling aunt), a structure that does not usually lend itself to audio. Here, however, it works perfectly. This wonderfully tragicomic tale records various attempts at freedom: Lucille kills her husband in "self-defense" because he's been killing her for 13 years, while Peejoe becomes embroiled in the civil rights struggle and its various murders. With gentle, self-mocking humor, this coming-of-age novel describes memorable people, in a vivid time and place. Highly recommended despite a contrived ending.
- Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 9, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345389247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345389244
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely crazy! March 19, 2002
Your homework for tonight: Drop everything and read Crazy in Alabama! This is such a great book -- much better than the movie. Mark Childress's carefully drawn characters come alive in these pages. Aunt Lucille will amaze you will all the nutty things she does. And Peejoe's story will have your heart breaking.
It all starts when Aunt Lucille and her six children come ambling up the driveway of her mother's house early May 1965. She's killed her bullying husband and stashed his head in a Tupperware bowl (with a Press-and-Lock seal that really works!), and now with him out of the way, she's free to pursue her dream: to become an actress. Leaving her children with her mother, Lucille has zoomed off to Hollywood, evoking suspicion and evading arrest at every turn.
Twisted into this story is another tale told through the eyes of 12-year-old Peejoe. He and his brother, Wiley, spend the summer in Industry, Alabama with Lucille's brother, Uncle Dove. As the county coroner and local funeral director, Dove has quite a busy summer ahead of him -- when Industry opens up their new "whites only" municipal swimming pool and the entire town takes a tragic turn.
Crazy in Alabama is both riotous and rollicking as well as a sad reminder of the Civil Rights Movement and its history. Lucille's adventures will have readers laughing out loud as suppressed feelings awaken in her on her journey across the country. And the view through the innocent eyes of Peejoe will have readers wondering why all life's answers can't be so simple. An action-packed novel and one that won't be forgotten! Has all the qualities of a quirky southern tale that will amuse you and move you.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Part a coming of age story and part awakening--both of a woman who has been kept down by her husband and of the African American community of 1960s Alabama, Crazy in Alabama is one heck of a read.

The story's main characters are Peejoe (Peter Joseph), a 12 year old orphan who was living with his beloved grandmother (Meemaw) until his crazy aunt cut off her husband's head and deserted her children. The aunt, Lucille, is the other main character. At 33, she has six children, a dead husband and a burning desire to make it in Hollywood, which is where she heads after she has committed the grisly murder.

Childress takes on big issues (race relations, oppression of women, the media, mental illness) and displays them unflinchingly. He also shows how there are some folks--leaders (Lucille also becomes some sort of de facto leader of women's issues)--who take advantage of serious situations for their own political gain.

Childress proves himself great in this book. He writes with such deft assuredness that he makes it look easy, but it's not. Clearly a student of popular culture, he weaves details (songs, movies, television) into a fine cloth and makes us feel as though we are right there with him.

Part Southern Gothic, part Hollywood exposé, part political treatise, this book will endure. But above and beyond all that, it's a great read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wacky, hilarious, outrageous ... April 20, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
...but there's a solid message buried not too deeply in this book. In part it's another southern coming-of-age tale, but it's somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Terrific story telling and utterly outrageous scenes. The thought that even a little bit of this is probably based on something that really happened is too delicious to contemplate.
Read it and laugh - and then think about it a little more seriously.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So crazy, it's hilarious February 24, 2000
'Crazy in Alabama' is one of those unique novels that comes along every once in awhile, and just makes you grin and shake your head in amusement. The book focuses around 2 characters, Peejoe, and his unique aunt Lucille. Lucille, frustrated with the boring life she's leading, decides to run off to Hollywood to become a movie star, and there's only one thing stopping her: her abusive husband Chester. So she puts rat poison in his coffee, and decides to take his head along as a keepsake. Meanwhile, Peejoe, usurped from his grandma's house by Lucille's brats, is in the middle of a race war with his brother and Uncle Dove, all the while worrying about Lucille and what will happen if she's caught. 'Crazy in Alabama' is one-of-a-kind, showing us the ugly side of the South, and just how far people will really go to get what they want.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss this One -- It's Terrific January 17, 2000
Mark has a talent for writing prose that is simultaneoulsy thought-provoking and hysterically funny; his world is both authentic and bizzare. He is a master at capturing the experience of youth -- the combination of innocence and growing awareness that we all experienced in some form or another, and his narrative voice is so strong that you'll easily go along for the ride, forgetting you're laughing because one of the women carries around her husband's head in tupperware, or that the people you care about so much are only fabricated characters in a book. This is a highly enjoyable novel that weaves together the story of a woman chasing her dream of stardom with the story of a young boy growing up in the South during the height of the Civil Rights struggle. Besides being a great read, it raises thought provoking questions about how we have treated and continue to treat each other.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fabulous Read!
Published 5 days ago by Susie Webster
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Bought this book for a gift.
Published 2 months ago by roy knapp
5.0 out of 5 stars An unlikely combo
While this is the best Childress novel I’ve read thus far, I still would recommend starting with V for Victor, which builds more evenly and conveys an almost nostalgic mood,... Read more
Published 6 months ago by W. J. TAYLOR
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Hilarious and tragic all at once. Couldn't put it down.
Published 8 months ago by Krista Winningham
3.0 out of 5 stars reads well
As advertised, quick shipping.
Published 9 months ago by tgptndr
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Everything went as it should.
Published 9 months ago by Andrea Whited
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny
Had read another of his books and decided to try this one. It has an unusual plot which I prefer, interesting characters and is set in the South. What more can you ask. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious
Loved it. Smart, funny, well written. A must read. Wonderful interwoven story lines, great characters, funny as heck. Read it!
Published 23 months ago by Maryann M. Meador
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny!
I enjoyed this book. It doesn't really have a serious basis in reality, but it is certainly funny. I would recommend for a weekend read.
Published 23 months ago by Angel Patterson
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy premise but decent result.
I don't think this is great or particularly deep literature, but the telling has a decent storyline and is clever in execution. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Harry F. Drabik
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More About the Author

Mark Childress is the author of seven novels: GEORGIA BOTTOMS (Little, Brown, 2011), ONE MISSISSIPPI, GONE FOR GOOD, CRAZY IN ALABAMA, TENDER, V FOR VICTOR, and A WORLD MADE OF FIRE.

Born in Monroeville, Alabama - the same town Harper Lee wrote about in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Childress is one of three sons of Roy and Mary Helen Childress. Roy was a salesman for Ralston Purina, so the family moved a lot growing up: Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, and Louisiana were some of the stops along the way.

Childress attended Clinton (Miss.) High School and the University of Alabama, where he studied fiction writing under Barry Hannah and Kitty Johnson. He worked as a staff writer for the Birmingham (Ala.) News, and was Features Editor of Southern Living magazine and National Editor of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution before becoming a full-time novelist.

His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday Review, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Travel and Leisure, and other national and international publications.

"Tender," a Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selection, was named to several Ten Best of 1990 lists, and appeared on many national bestseller lists. "Crazy in Alabama," a featured selection of the Literary Guild, has been published in eleven languages and appeared on many bestseller lists and Ten Best of 1993 lists. "Crazy" was named The (London) Spectator's "Book of the Year" for 1993 and a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and was on the Spiegel bestseller list in Germany for 10 months.

"One Mississippi" was a BookSense Notable Book of the Year, nominated for SIBA Book of the Year,and appeared on the "hot summer book" lists of Good Morning America, People, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, O: the Oprah Magazine, and the New York Public Library. The paperback edition is now in its seventh printing.

"Georgia Bottoms" was a New York Times bestseller and appeared on a variety of "hot" lists.

Childress has also written three picture books for children, "Joshua and Bigtooth," in 1992, "Joshua and the Big Bad Blue Crabs," 1996 (both from Little, Brown), and "Henry Bobbity Is Missing And It Is All Billy Bobbity's Fault," (Crane Hill Publishers, 1996).

He wrote the screenplay of the Columbia Pictures film "Crazy in Alabama," directed by Antonio Banderas, and starring Melanie Griffith, an official selection of the Venice and San Sebastian film festivals in 1999.

Childress is now working on his eighth novel and a film project. He lives in Key West, Florida.

(Author photo by Brett Hall)

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Crazy in Alabama
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