three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-GodsAlabamaIn this debut novel, 20-something Arlene Fleet hasn’t lied, fornicated, or returned to her hometown of Possett, Alabama in more than 10 years. These are all promises she made to God if only He’d keep an inconvenient body back home covered in kudzu where she left it. Unfortunately for Arlene, Rose Mae Lolley, an old schoolmate and possibly the girlfriend of the quarterback that’s disappeared, tracks Arlene down in Chicago where she is in grad school and living chastely with her black boyfriend. Arlene must return to Possett and face not only her bigoted Baptist family, but her murderous past as well.
Warner Books. 275 pages. $19.95.
ISBN: 0446524190

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"What really elevates [this novel] is Joshilyn Jackson’s fresh, unpredictable way with words. She writes so creatively that you slow down, because every sentence is a delight of some sort." Michele Ross

Dallas Morning News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The tone shifts speedily from humorous to disturbing, and often the writing is incisive and memorable. … The author uses flashbacks to add to the suspense of what actually happened to Jim Beverly, the soured football god."
Karen Stolz

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"But as life and love lead her inexorably home, one by one those promises fall, with results as twisted as kudzu. The only flaw in this ambitious debut is a tossed-off ending—like Arlene, Jackson is in way too big a hurry to get out of town." Whitney Pastorek

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While some of the plot elements … might seem familiar, Jackson ably overcomes them through sure-handed writing and a bawdy sense of humor that never loses its Southern charm. … Though the author touches on serious subjects (racism, date rape, murder), Gods in Alabama is basically a light-hearted farce." Dorman T. Shindler

Orlando Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The plot, masterfully constructed, has more twists and turns than a wiggle worm at the end of a small hook. The heroine is a strong, calculating presence and her frequent disputes with her overbearing aunt add friction to a family drama already fraught with tension." John Harper

Critical Summary

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. Don’t expect Jackson’s debut novel to end like the usual "coming home" story or mistake it for just another "chick-lit" offering.