This was exactly the book I needed this week. Don't you love when that happens? I've been stuck in heavy reading lately—some because the subject matter is intense (The Cellist of Sarajevo, A Million Little Pieces)—some because the storyline is cumbersome (Songs in Ordinary Times).
gods in Alabama is Joshilyn Jackson's debut novel, published in 2005. I read Jackson's 2006 Between, Georgia about this time last year and enjoyed it. (Reading my review from last year, I am amused to see that I was also reading that Jackson novel after a very intense read!) Jackson does a fantastic job of capturing the quirkiness of the south without falling into stereotypes. She has a great sense of humor. I think that if Celia Rivenbark (Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank and We're Just Like You, Only Prettier) were to write a novel, her voice would sound very much like Jackson's.
The story here is of Lena/Arlene Fleet, an Alabama girl who fled her tiny hometown for Chicago. For ten years she's avoided returning home to her quirky southern family and the tragedies of her youth, including a murder, but at last her Chicago boyfriend forces her to return home to introduce him to her family or risk losing him.
This is a fast-paced book that weaves between past and present perfectly. This was one of those books that I read through in just a few hours, including a very late night. I am a great fan of southern literature, and I really needed this book, this taste of southerness, high school gone awry, and laugh-outloud moments. I'll definitely keep my eyes out for Jackson's newest book, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.