Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

This is one I read for the A to Z Challenge and, I think, was one of the books I got after the Read-a-thon last Spring. It took me a while to get to it on my growing TBR pile.

It's the story of Arlene Fleet who has left Alabama for Chicago and a new life after a number of traumatic high school events including the death of her father, the insanity of her mother, sexual promiscuity, teen date rape, and a murder. The story goes back and forth between Arlene's current journey back to Alabama and her past, which is filled with secrets and intrigue. This is definitely a novel rooted in the south like Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen which I've already blogged about.

STRENGTHS OF GODS IN ALABAMA: This book has one of the best opening lines I've ever read. Arlene's list of the gods in Alabama include: "high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus." That line alone made me want to read more. I liked Arlene for her self-deprecating humor and honest portrayal of her life and its quirks. I enjoyed Arlene's aunt also. Jackson gave that character some depth and clarity of thought which I found refreshing.

I also liked the back and forth chapters between the past and the present. It kept me interested in both parts of the story. I think if it had been told in a more linear fashion, then I would have lost interest fairly quickly. I did not anticipate the ending and was quite surprised by the ultimate resolution of the murder.

WEAKNESSES OF GODS IN ALABAMA: I don't tend to be drawn to Southern fiction, which is a very legitimate genre in literature. Many of the characters start to feel too similar and stereotyped. I felt that way about Arlene's cousin, uncle, and other family members. They didn't have enough depth to be very interesting. I find this to be a problem for me in many books in this genre. Maybe it is my southern California bias - I can't always relate to these characters.

Overall, I'd give this one 3 1/2 stars. I kept comparing it to Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen which I enjoyed much more. I'd be curious to know what you thought of this one, and if anyone has a recommendation on another of Jackson's books.


Trish said...

Ever since you mentioned Looking for Salvation I've been wanting to read it! I love southern lit, but this one was OK for me--and her follow up book. Nice light reads, but nothing fantastic.

BookGal said...

Trish - I agree. If I get my copy of Salvation back (it's on loan right now), I'll let you know.