book club

BOOK HUNGRY: gods in alabama

who says you have to be crowded into the living room/kitchen/dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

side note to all readers: if you’ve read the book, jump in on the conversation. comment away. if you haven’t read the book, go out and buy a copy, you ninny. and then come back and comment. if you’d like to become a full time BOOK HUNGRY member, contact one of us and we’ll get you set up. no need to have a blog. we can post for you. it couldn’t be easier. and it couldn’t be more fun.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:

GODS IN ALABAMA by joshilyn jackson.

the premise of the book (as it reads on the back of the book, yes i shall type it all out for you): “When Arlene Fleet heads up north for college, she promises God that she’ll stop fornicating and lying, and never, ever go back to her hometown in Alabama. All she wants from Him is one miracle: make sure the body is never found. Now, ten years later, God breaks the deal when a dark secret from her past lands on her Chicago doorstep. With the fickle finger of fate pointing her south, Arlene must return to the heart of redneck country, where a powerful truth can destroy her life…or save it.”

this book was cynthia’s selection, which means it was out of my normal reading zone, but since everyone read my suggestion which was an unusual choice for them, i figured i should be brave and read into uncharted territory. i’m glad i did. the way the main character Lena/Arlene narrates the story is fascinating. one of the deals she made with God is that she won’t ever tell a lie. and she doesn’t. not to other characters and not to the readers. you know what happened that night from the very beginning. but what you don’t know are the events that lead up to it. and those events are told in alternating chapters of current Lena’s life vs. flashbacks of Arlene before she left Alabama.

a quick note on the names, growing up, the main character was known as Arlene, but once she left for college, she chose to go by the nickname Lena. this is an interesting part in and of itself because she clearly thought that she would be able to ignore what happened by leaving town and changing her name. she was trying to reinvent herself, but as you know, you’re still the same you. the events that happen in your childhood turn you into the adult you become whether it’s a reaction to or avoidance of those events. there was an amazing passage at the bottom of page 117 where Lena goes into what it a name means (to her) for her. i won’t quote it because it won’t make sense without the context of the rest of the story/it might be a bit spoilery. but if you read the book, make sure to note it. so good!

the pacing is perfect. the supporting cast of characters is so strong, it sometimes threatens to overwhelm Lena’s character, but it’s pure joy for the reader. the descriptions of people, places, and events are rich and lovely. in fact, i want to share some of my favorite lines with you. (never fear, they don’t give anything away).

pg. 96 (Lena is referencing a moment where she is a bit terrified to walk by a group of boys in the mall food court.) “I was a skeleton beside her. It was as if I had no skin to soften the stark grin of my skull, no tendons or muscles to keep my bones from clashing and jangling together, chipping and splintering as I walked.” (it’s a graphic image, but so vivid to that emotion of feeling scared).

pg. 133 (Lena’s talking about the moment when your crush walks closely by). “The heat of him was toasting the skin right off my back.” (you totally know that feeling, don’t you?)

pg. 136 “In that moment I felt myself catch fire and spontaneously combust, burning up in half a heartbeat to nothing but a crisp cinder. When the burning passed, I was still standing there.”

pg. 197 “I woke up in a panic. I sat up straight and froze there with my heart thumping an erratic tattoo against my rib cage, not sure why I was so afraid, until I traced back what had awakened me. A noise. The doorbell.” (come on, haven’t you had this happen? i sure have. you wake up terrified and it takes a minute to figure out why. my alarm clock often scares me like this every morning. good times.)

pg. 224 “I felt my silence change then, as my body went so still that a single beat of my heart shook me like an earthquake.”

this book appears to be about one thing (a murder), but in fact, it’s a simple tale of love and acceptance and growing up. lena/arlene thought/assumed many things, but it turns out that she was wrong on many fronts. families express their love for each other in unique ways. you can’t push them away because you don’t understand it. you ask and you listen and you return the love to the best of your ability.


10 thoughts on “BOOK HUNGRY: gods in alabama”

  1. Excellent observation… Arlene never lies, not to people or to the reader.

    I hadn’t consciously noticed that she never lied to me. The unreliable narrator (flaws!)

    It was almost like a Columbo episode… we see whodunit, we just don’t know why or how he’ll be caught.

    1. a columbo episode, huh? perhaps i should watch some of them because i LOVED that we knew whodunit, but we didn’t the why or how.

    1. BAH. you read HG sitting on the floor of a bookstore. i think you can re-read GOA in an afternoon, sitting on the floor of your office.

      now GO.

      1. work IS silly. especially the day after you’ve been out of the office for 10 days. i have work coming out of my ears and nose and toes and and and i should not be here (on my bliggity blog) right now….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s