Book Review: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

July 5, 2012 audio, book review 3

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Published by: Grand Central Publishing 2005/Hachette Audio 2005

Narrated by: Catherine Taber

Length: 320 pages/ 8 hours 6 minutes audio

Source: Borrowed from Library

Joshilyn Jackson’s tale of the South and how families and lives are molded amidst the background of beloved football, the Southern Baptist Church, popular make out spots, and secrets is beautiful and haunting.  To imagine this is Jackson’s debut novel is even more amazing.  Her ability to weave and tell a story reminds me of stories I’ve heard my entire my life.  The relatives both near and far of my Texas born and raised parents. 

Arlene is living in Chicago, working, romantically involved with Burr, a man she loves, but has set very strict sexual limits with.  She is from small town Possett, Alabama…a past that haunts her life still today.  She made promises to God when she left, to never lie again, to stop fornicating with every boy she knows, and to never return to her hometown, and much as she’s tried her family keeps calling her back.  Aunt Florence calls her regularly and asks when she’s coming back and when it’s almost time for her Uncle’s retirement party she has a visit from a former classmate.  Rose Mae Lolly shows up on her door, at her work at the university.  Rose keeps asking Arlene what happened to Jim Beverly, former heart throb and football star.  With pressure from Aunt Flo to come home, and Burr to take him to meet the family and needing to protect some long buried secrets, Arlene and Burr head to Alabama. 

Oh, did I mention that Alene hails from a very southern white family and that her boyfriend Burr is black?  Yep, another reason why Arlene is less than excited to share him with her family.  On the way home she decided they’ll tell everyone they are engaged, that way Aunt Flo can’t raise too much hell.  Arlene’s momma is slightly off, there isn’t really an explanation, I thought of it as dementia, she seems childlike and innocent.  Aunt Florence has always been the head of the family, and Arlene was raised alongside her cousin Clarice, beautiful and most things she was not. 

Back home in Possett Alene faces the ghosts of her past, the things that she can’t forgive herself for.  She begins to learn that she only knows one part of a much longer story.  What each of us does for love and family is a lesson  Arlene will never forget.

I decided I would listen to the audio book productions of each of Joshilyn Jackson’s books.  I borrowed this one from the library.  The narration is performed by Catherine Taber, who skillfully brings a very southern array of voices to the book.  Her voice made the book that much better I’m sure. 

I really loved this book, and as it’s the second of Joshilyn Jackson’s books I’ve listened to I was prepared to have this feeling.  The characters, the story, the unfolding and unknowing all kept me yearning to hear more.  I rated this book a 5 out of 5 stars, and if you are just now coming to Jackson’s books this is a wonderful place to start. 

3 Responses to “Book Review: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson”

  1. Jenny

    For me this is one of those books that was okay when I read it but has seemed a lot better to me over time and is one of the few books I can remember/ still think about! I agree this is a good one to start with. It’s probably my favorite by her, lol!

  2. Zibilee

    I loved this book as well, and it was my first Jackson. It inspired me to read all of her work, and right after I finished this one, I went and listened to A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, which I think was my favorite. Great review today! I loved this book!

  3. Anita

    5 out of 5! Enticing!

    Oh how I wish I could rearrange my life a little to spend more time reading.

    Okay, so I do read the blogs and it takes away from the books. But I love it, too. 🙂

    Your reviews are very good! I get a really good feel for the book, be they good, bad or in between.

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