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Showing 1-10 of 18 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 54 reviews
on June 7, 2014
I need to start out by saying that I LOVED this book by Suzan-Lori Parks. Really loved it. The first 30 or so pages didn't start of particularly well for me and I wasn't sure I was going to like it but I pushed through and I am glad I did because it truly was an excellent book. A great combination of tragedy, folly, and comedy. Well written in what I would call great bursts of writing, the author tells the story of what can only be referred to as a family and a loose confederation of people on the road to recover what they think is "buried treasure" in the form of jewels that were buried with one Willa Mae Beede upon her death. The protagonist here--her daughter Billy Beede--is a knocked up 16 year old girl who isn't sure if she wants to keep her baby or get an abortion but she knows one thing for sure and that is she needs money. All of the characters in this small Texas town are poor as poor can be. So Billy comes up with this idea to go find her mother who she believes was buried with a pearl necklace and diamond ring, unearth her body, and sell the jewels for money. Unfortunately, getting to this small town is no small task and it appears many others have the same idea including her Uncle and one-legged Aunt, Willa Mae's lesbian lover Dill, and several others including a distant cousin Laz who they met on the way to dig up mom. A really well written book that will leave you alternately laughing and crying but also realizing that when someone is so poor, they would resort to almost anything they think is realistic to pull themselves out of poverty.
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on December 7, 2010
One of the most innovative and cool aspects of Suzan-Lori Park's Getting Mother's Body is that she recorded a companion CD that has the songs that are written in the book. They're blues fun and Parks has good voice. They add a lot of depth and creativity to the novel and it's disappointing that they don't come with the book. If you want to hear them you have to buy them separately from CD Baby. Or, if you purchase the audiobook the songs are also on there.

It's very much like William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying with multiple POVs as a family go on a journey together, all having their own motivations. There are so many themes. Gender. Homosexuality. Race. Spirituality. Morality. Adultery. Class differences. Capitalism. Teen pregnancy. Betrayal. Infertility. Patriarchy. Identity. Self-worth. And others. This, as one can imagine, spreads each subject a little thin.

Overall, the writing isn't fantastic. The plot is fairly predictable and there are some noticeable holes. The ending seems very false.
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on May 16, 2014
Parks takes the reader on a journey of discovery for heroine, Billy Bede. We get to know the whole family in their tragic and comic existence. We commiserate with Billy as she tries to deal with the Life that is growing within her and the mother who was larger than life and remains so even in death. Redemption is a key element for these basically good people and whilst they seem to fight against each other and their motives seem selfish, their humanity comes through. The author has a great ear for dialogue and once the reader gets into the flow it is lovely to the ear. A fine human novel.
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"Where my panties at?" are the great opening lines of this wondrous comic novel; but you "aint seen nothing" yet. The critics insist on saying Ms. Parks is influenced here by William Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING, something I don't see much of although I did hear her in an interview recently say nice things about Faulkner. Ms. Parks is certainly a classy lady.
And she has written a classy novel. Billy Beede, named after Billie Holiday in spite of the spelling of her first name, is sixteen, unmarried and pregnant. She is joined by a host of other motley characters: Dill Smiles. . . "the most honest person I know, even if she ain't nothing but a bulldagger." Then there's Roosevelt Beede, a minister who no longer preaches; his wife June Flowers Beede, who only has one leg; Laz Jackson, named for Lazarus in the New Testament because he was born not breathing, who wants to marry Billy even though he is not the father of her unborn child--actually he's still a virgin when the novel begins--and of course Willa Mae Beede, Billy's mother and Dill's former lover, who is now in her grave and may have been buried with previous gems. There are several other minor characters, just as interesting, not the least of which is Homer Beede Rochfoucault, the son of a Morehouse man and a Spelman graduate. There's also a sympathetic white deputy sheriff, someone we might not expect to find in 1963, the year this novel takes place.
Told from several points of view-- perhaps the writer is influenced by Faulkner after all-- the novel ultimately is about the importance of family. These characters-- most of them either dirt poor or, in the case of Homer and his mother, people who have suffered a reversal of fortune-- are as strong as the state of Texas. Like Faulkner's Dilsey in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, they endure.
That Ms. Parks first made her mark as a dramatist-- she won the Pulitzer for her play TOPDOG/UNDERDOG-- is obvious from the language here as one dialogue builds on another.
For all these characters' misfortunes-- and they suffer many-- you will feel good about the ending of this story. Billy says: "Going back home we made good time. I think we did all right." Ms. Parks does much better than "all right" in this poignant, bittersweet novel.
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2003
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks�s debut novel, Getting Mother�s Body, has an affinity to William Faulkner�s classic, As I Lay Dying, only this time, Parks has flipped the script in a couple of areas. First, instead of taking a body home to be buried, the characters are planning to exhume the remains of one �high-strung, party girl/singer�, Willa Mae Beede; and secondly, the characters are African American, the setting is 1963 rural Texas, and the lead character is Billy Beede, a poor pregnant, unwed, high school dropout.
After her mother�s (Willa Mae) untimely demise, Billy returns to Lincoln by her mother�s lesbian lover, Dill Smiles, to live with her maternal uncle, Roosevelt, and his wife, June, in their trailer behind a gas station. Billy becomes pregnant by a married man and believes an abortion will solve all of her problems. To get the money for the procedure, she plans a journey back to Arizona to recover the small fortune (a pearl necklace and diamond ring) which according to Dill adorns Willa Mae�s corpse. Billy is accompanied by an eccentric cast of characters, each with selfish desires for the treasure, each hoping it will �fill a hole.� These �holes� run deep ranging from pride, envy, debt to lust, unrequited love, childlessness, and spiritual loss. Billy becomes an expert in recognizing �holes,� i.e. finding one�s weaknesses, and uses her �gift� to manipulate her family and strangers to get what she wants�unknowingly becoming more like the con artist mother that she despises.
This novel, told in first person by each lead character, causes the reader to experience the journey from differing viewpoints. Often times, the chapters represent character perspectives of the same event granting the reader the opportunity to �hear� multiple sides of the story. The author even interjects observations, blues songs, and ominous passages by the deceased Willa Mae. The use of monologues allows the reader to learn firsthand each character�s motivation, vulnerabilities, and haunted pasts; these elements contributed to the novel�s well developed characters. This reviewer also enjoyed the writing style and the extensive use of regional dialect to add realism to the dialogue.
Without a clue on how this story was going to end until the end, I was happy that the journey ultimately brought about some semblance of absolution and redemption for the motley crew, which was a welcomed relief for an otherwise dismal tale. There is a lot more to this story than this review covers; one has to read to appreciate all the author has to offer. Ms. Parks shows great promise and if you enjoy deviating from the �relationship drama� of modern contemporary fiction, you may enjoy this book. I think readers who enjoyed eclectic works like Lolita Files�s Child of God and Olympia Vernon�s Eden might appreciate this novel.
Phyllis
APOOO BookClub, The Nubian Circle Book Club
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on June 6, 2013
This was a Book Club read and probably would not have chosen it from the title only. I liked the chapters as a view from each of the characters. The theme is a reminder of each member of a family and those associated see circumstances so differently causing the reader to understand why. The story is in your face how the poor and uneducated have so few choices to solving problems.
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on November 20, 2013
This book was surprisingly much better than I thought it would be! I like the different perspectives of the book, and found it so intriguing how lying was such an influential thing is this book. I honestly had no idea what or who to believe, but for me, that's what kept it interesting..
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on August 14, 2013
I picked up this novel because I know Parks' plays. I could hardly put this novel down! Haunting, huanted, and sometimes hilarious, this is the most original novel I've read in a long time (and boy do I read lots of novels). I liked it so much I gave a copy to my professor as a gift.
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VINE VOICEon May 6, 2003
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks's debut novel, Getting Mother's Body, has an affinity to William Faulkner's classic, As I Lay Dying, only this time, Parks has flipped the script in a couple of areas. First, instead of taking a body home to be buried, the characters are planning to exhume the remains of one "high-strung, party girl/singer," Willa Mae Beede; and secondly, the characters are African American, the setting is 1963 rural Texas, and the lead character is Billy Beede, a poor pregnant, unwed, high school dropout.
After her mother's (Willa Mae) untimely demise, Billy is returned to Lincoln by her mother's lesbian lover, Dill Smiles, to live with her maternal uncle, Roosevelt, and his wife, June, in their trailer behind a gas station. Billy becomes pregnant by a married man and believes an abortion will solve all of her problems. To get the money for the procedure, she plans a journey back to Arizona to recover the small fortune (a pearl necklace and diamond ring) which according to Dill adorns Willa Mae's corpse. Billy is accompanied by an eccentric cast of characters, each with selfish desires for the treasure, each hoping it will "fill a hole." These "holes" run deep ranging from pride, envy, debt to lust, unrequited love, childlessness, and spiritual loss. Billy becomes an expert in recognizing "holes," i.e., finding one's weaknesses, and uses her 'gift' to manipulate her family and strangers to get what she wants---unknowingly becoming more like the con artist mother that she despises.
This novel, told in first person by each lead character, causes the reader to experience the journey from differing viewpoints. Often times, the chapters represent character perspectives of the same event granting the reader the opportunity to "hear" multiple sides of the story. The author even interjects observations, blues songs, and ominous passages by the deceased Willa Mae. The use of monologues allows the reader to learn firsthand each character's motivation, vulnerabilities, and haunted pasts; these elements contributed to the novel's well-developed characters. This reviewer also enjoyed the writing style and the extensive use of regional dialect to add realism to the dialogue.
Without a clue on how this story was going to end until the end, I was happy that the journey ultimately brought about some semblance of absolution and redemption for the motley crew, which was a welcomed relief for an otherwise dismal tale. There is a lot more to this story than this review covers; one has to read to appreciate all the author has to offer. Ms. Parks shows great promise and if you enjoy deviating from the "relationship drama" of modern contemporary fiction, you may enjoy this book. I think readers who enjoyed eclectic works like Lolita Files's Child of God and Olympia Vernon's Eden might appreciate this novel.
Reviewed by Phyllis
APOOO BookClub
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on June 27, 2016
One of the tapes was damaged
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