gods in Alabama

gods in alabamaA while ago I was contact about writing some book reviews for an e-zine. Unfortunately life got in the way and the e-zine is a no go (that pesky life and full time job stuff...). So here's a review I did for it that was never on the blog. I read it in July. It's a bit longer than what I normally write for my blog, unless I get a good ramble going on.

A couple of weeks ago I started to see buzz online about the Joshilyn Jackson’s new book, Between, Georgia. Almost everything I read about it made mention of her first book, gods in Alabama, which was also apparently rave-worthy. What’s this? A must read book that I missed? This had to be remedied right away. So with a few quick clicks of the mouse I had reserved a copy of gods in Alabama from my local library.

gods in Alabama hooked me with the first sentence. I won’t tell you what it is because there’s nothing quite like opening the first page of a book and seeing a truly great opening line so I won’t ruin it for you (but you might want to avoid other online reviews as many of them make mention of it). But I assure you, it’s good.

Arlene Fleet made a deal with God ten years earlier when she was in high school. She would stop fornicating with all the boys that crossed her path, she’d never tell another lie and she’d leave Possett, Alabama after high school and never come back. In return God would let her get out of Possett and keep everything that happened there in Possett. This went well for ten years. Arlene moved to Chicago, changed her name to Lena, went to school and was working on her Masters. She had an on again, off again (mostly on) relationship with a black tax-attorney named Burr. She kept her promises – no sex, no lies and no Alabama. God, however, did not keep his. In the middle of an argument as Burr was giving her an ultimatum, take him to meet her family in Alabama or they were through, Alabama came knocking at her door in the form of her former high school classmate, Rose Mae Lolly. The next thing she knows she’s headed back to Alabama with Burr at her side, convinced all along the way that as soon as they get there her family will disown her for having a black boyfriend. Plus there’s that whole secret she’s trying to keep but the closer and closer they get to Alabama the more and more she wants to tell Burr.

It’s a novel about secrets, love, family and how they can all combine and thoroughly confuse our lives. Arlene has a secret that she’s kept from her family and Burr. She loves her family more than she’s willing to admit and acknowledge. She’s done her best over the course of ten years to convince herself that she doesn’t need her family. When you have promised to never to return to them, it’s less painful that way and the longer you stay away the easier it is to believe this. Or at least until you return and then you get caught up in all kinds of painful memories and the guilt of having cut yourself off from them. Throw into the mix the secret that Arlene is keeping, the real reason she left, and it gets all the more complicated.

Whether you plan to read at the cottage, the beach, or are just passing away a few hours on the couch this is a book you’ll have a hard time putting down. The best part is if you are like me and just finding this book now you don’t have to wait for the author’s second book to come out. It’s out now and definitely has been added to my must read list.