Gods in Alabama
by Joshilyn Jackson
One part murder mystery one part chick lit, set in the south. God in Alabama is a family drama set around a murder – that means it’s full of secrets that families have been keeping for years and complicated relationships that are all coming down to recogning. So it’s a good thing that these characters aren’t that complicated or the writing too dense; with so much going on it’d be easy to get bogged down.
Initially I was pulled into the story because the main character reflected something that reminded me of my own situation. I moved away from my own southern roots and I’ve always had a hard time letting them go, just ahs Arlene Fleet seems unable to give up her Alabama roots. And that’s where my connection ended. Unlike the main character, who’s fighting tooth and nail to stay away, I’m always dreaming of going back. She’s got a boyfriend that she’s keeping at a distance, and a pretty dark past that’s started to come after her. Circumstances force her to return to her small hometown in Alabama, and confront those o-so-nasty secrets. And if a dark past weren’t enough to make the plot juicy, Arelene brings along her black boyfriend to meet her raciest folks. Secrete Life of Bees + Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner + JD Robb. (I know it’s weak, but I’m tired.)
Joshilyn Jackson has done a good job handling so much in one novel. She keeps a light touch and a fast pace. It’s a pop culture twist on southern gothic. So while her main character is a “southern girl” nothing really rings true. Rest of the cast could have come out of a Hollywood scrip. They’re “red-neck” in that heavily glossed Matthew McConaughey way.
The south has a thick literary heritage, that’s hard to penetrate and is best left as it is. There are some great southern authors out there, and some great collections….but this book doesn’t belong in that genera. You can set a book in the south but that doesn’t mean that it’s Southern.
Overall, the book is great for reading on the train or on vacation (perhaps to keep you from your own family dramas as you head home for the holidays.) But if it’s taking up to much room in your carry on, feel free to leave it behind.