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Gods in Alabama Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Arlene Fleet, the refreshingly imperfect heroine of Jackson's frank, appealing debut, launches her story with a list of the title's deities: "high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus." The first god, also a date rapist by the name of Jim Beverly, she left dead in her hometown of Possett, Ala., but the last she embraces wholeheartedly when high school graduation allows her to flee the South, the murder and her slutty reputation for a new life in Chicago. Upon leaving home, Arlene makes a bargain with God, promising to forgo sex, lies and a return home if he keeps Jim's body hidden. After nine years in Chicago as a truth-telling celibate, an unexpected visitor from home (in search of Jim Beverly) leads her to believe that God is slipping on his end of the deal. As Arlene heads for the Deep South with her African-American boyfriend, Burr, in tow, her secrets unfold in unsurprising but satisfying flashbacks. Jackson brings levity to familiar themes with a spirited take on the clichés of redneck Southern living: the Wal-Mart culture, the subtle and overt racism and the indignant religion. The novel concludes with a final, dramatic disclosure, though the payoff isn't the plot twist but rather Jackson's genuine affection for the people and places of Dixie.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics agree that Jackson has scored big in her first outing, a comic novel that combines salty blue-collar humor with an engaging first-person voice. Jackson navigates through what could have become clichés of Southern types and instead offers memorable, often humorous characters and situations that keep the story humming along. The author also has a few surprises up her sleeve when it comes to plot and character, including moral ambiguity. Dont expect Jacksons debut novel to end like the usual "coming home" story or mistake it for just another "chick-lit" offering.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I thought I was absolutely going to love this book up until the last chapter. Five stars, all the way. The writing is phenomenal, and I can completely imagine Arlene, her crazy family, Rose Mae Lolley, Burr, and the small town of Possett, Alabama. I loved the multi-faceted way in which she portrayed not only Arlene, the grad student, good Southern Baptist girl, slut, and murderer, but also Jim Beverly, who could protect his girlfriend from her abusive father and usher a girl to the nurse's office so she doesn't have to be embarrassed by having blood all over her pants, but also turn into a violent drunk. Arlene and Burr's relationship was very real, with conflicts and bumps and moments when you think it might be over, but always lasting because they really and truly do know each other. I loved the way Burr dealt with Arlene's crazy, mostly-racist family, and I was really loving the book in general.
And then there was that last chapter. See, in the last chapter, Jackson pretty much unravels the gorgeous narrative she had built up until that point. I was expecting a House of Sand and Fog-type ending, and I would have been okay with that. That's not the way this goes, though. In the end, everyone gets away with what they've done, Jim is a monster after all, Arlene and her family are reconciled, and she and Burr presumably live happily ever after. It's just too perfect. Murder doesn't end that way. Or, it does, sometimes, but very, very rarely. Arlene & Co. are just primed to be starring on an episode of Cold Case 25 years from now. That last chapter knocked a couple of stars off my rating of this one. A more "flawed" ending for Arlene & Co. would have been more satisfying, I think; heart-wrenching, yes, but I think Jackson could have pulled it off if she tried. She just didn't try.
In Chicago, where she now teaches, she has become involved with Burr, her African-American boyfriend, a lawyer. Her Southern family, to whom she speaks once a week, are unaware of him.
Her aunt calls that Sunday and lets her know that her uncle is retiring and she is expected to attend his party. Arlene at first refuses, but then relents and leaves for Alabama with Burr.
There are twists and turns in the plot as you relive parts of Arlene's girlhood with her cousin Clarice, who is beautiful and popular,while Arlene is small, dark-haired and not as pretty as tall, blond Clarice. But the cousins love each other.
After something happens to Clarice, Arlene tries to get revenge, which is the basis of why she left
Alabama. Now she is coming back to face that, and to face the Southern prejudice against her boyfriend. This is entertaining and a fast read, perfect for summer.
Joshilyn Jackson wrote a book that took me back home to my hometown nearly 40 years ago. I guess some things never change.
The book also deals with families, secrets, pain, redemption, mental illness, and bigotry. I enjoyed the book a great deal.