June 19, 2007
gods in Alabama
gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
Finished on 6/10/07
Southern Reading Challenge #1
From the Publisher:
When Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, never fornicate outside of marriage, and never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found. Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old schoolmate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene’s African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he’s gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption--and love.
When it became obvious I wasn't going to nap, Burr began a game of What Have I Got in My Pocketses that lasted us all the way to Nashville. This was a game we'd invented, and we played it in the car and sometimes on slow winter afternoons in front of the fireplace at his bachelor pad. We would each make up a long, complicated story. Burr usually finished his first. When he had the plot points down, he would tell me half the story and give me some background on the characters so I knew who was who. The catch was, the stories were always told backwards. So Burr would start at the end and trace events back through time until he got to the middle. Then he would stop telling it and say, "What have I got in my pocketses?"
I had to listen carefully, and he had to tell a story with an ending so inevitable that I would then be able to tell him the first half of his story. Not only able to -- forced to. The end had to come out of one possible beginning.
And this is exactly the manner in which Jackson tells her tale.
I fear I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again I feel this is a case of a book not living up to the hype generated by fellow readers. I enjoyed parts of the story, but my overall reaction was mild disappointment. The narrative was a bit uneven and it took a long time before I started to care about any of the characters. A few readers have indicated that Jackson's second novel, Between, Georgia, is better than this debut work and while I plan to give it a try, I won't rush out and buy a copy any time soon. Having said that, I have to say I did enjoy the handful of humorous comebacks by Arlene's boyfriend. Every time I started to think about quitting the book, I'd find myself laughing out loud at Burr's dry wit, plunging back into the narrative with hopes that it'd improve. What a shame the humor was inconsistent. Overall I give it a big meh.
For those interested, Lisa over at Bluestalking Reader has posted a lovely interview with Joshilyn here.