Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

I don’t think I can improve on the first line of Gods in Alabama, so I’ll just let it set the story for you:

There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches.

Right, so, there you have it. You should know from reading that whether you are interested. (And, you should be.)

Lena, our narrator, now lives in Chicago, and made a deal with God: If he would keep anybody from finding the body of the high school quarterback she hit over the head with a bottle of tequila, she promised to stop fornicating, stop lying, and never return to Alabama. But when an old high school classmate shows up at her house, she realizes that God has not kept his end of the deal, and she’s going to have to return to Alabama to deal with her past.

To complicate things, her boyfriend, an African-American man who was by far my favorite character in the book, has given her an ultimatum: he wants to meet her family or their two-year relationship is over. She reluctantly decides to take him with her to Alabama, knowing that her family may reject him simply because he’s not white, knowing that he may reject her when he finds out the things she’s been keeping from him.

I raced through this book, starting it Tuesday night and finishing it Wednesday night. It was funny, though not as funny as Joshilyn Jackson’s other book, Between, Georgia. This one was a little bit more dark, a little bit more Southern Gothic. I preferred this one to Between, Georgia, no question. It kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how these relationships were going to resolve. In the end, it was both satisfying and sweet.

Sometimes I read books about the South that are over-the-top in an attempt to be humorous. This one edged up to that line, but the humanity of the characters kept it from being caricature. Her second book was more caricature than I like, wacky humor at the expense of character development, but I’d still try another one by this author based on the strength of this book alone.

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