Gods in Alabama, Joshilyn Jackson, Grand Central Publishing, 2005, 288 pp
I read this novel for one of my reading groups and while I gobbled it down in a few hours, I was left feeling a little queasy. Arlene Fleet, raised a Southern White Baptist, has fled to Chicago because she killed a young man and got away with it. She made a deal with God that included never going back home as long as the body was never found.
So, in the nature of deals with God, it all starts to unravel and Arlene finds herself back in Possett, Alabama with her African American fiance, her terrifying Aunt Florence, her mentally ill mother and her perfect cousin. As you read, you get the story of the murder and in the end, the truth you never saw coming is revealed. All told, it is good storytelling.
Except for all the sex and swear words, this could almost be a YA novel. Except for all the intelligent ideas about writing, race, religion and women, it could be chick lit. It if wasn't for large doses of laugh out loud humor, this would be a tragedy about Southern dysfunctionalism.
That sums up my problem with Gods in Alabama. What is it? Looking back on the reading of it, I feel similar to the way I feel after wolfing down an entire medium pizza with too many toppings that I might have ordered on a night my husband was out of town: very full, quite guilty and, well, queasy.
I got my copy at the library and had to take Large Print because all the regular copies were checked out. But I picture books like this being bought off big messy sale tables by women shopping at WalMart or Costco and while I am glad these women are reading a book once in a while instead of watching TV, I am afraid that they also ate the entire medium pizza and are now signing up for Weight Watchers. I'll take Toni Morrison and a chicken Caesar please.
(Available by special order in paperback from Once Upon A Time bookstore.)