Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Gods in Alabama - Joshilyn Jackson
I thought I was absolutely going to love this book up until the last chapter. Five stars, all the way. The writing is phenomenal, and I can completely imagine Arlene, her crazy family, Rose Mae Lolley, Burr, and the small town of Possett, Alabama. I loved the multi-faceted way in which she portrayed not only Arlene, the grad student, good Southern Baptist girl, slut, and murderer, but also Jim Beverly, who could protect his girlfriend from her abusive father and usher a girl to the nurse's office so she doesn't have to be embarrassed by having blood all over her pants, but also turn into a violent drunk. Arlene and Burr's relationship was very real, with conflicts and bumps and moments when you think it might be over, but always lasting because they really and truly do know each other. I loved the way Burr dealt with Arlene's crazy, mostly-racist family, and I was really loving the book in general.
And then there was that last chapter. See, in the last chapter, Jackson pretty much unravels the gorgeous narrative she had built up until that point. I was expecting a House of Sand and Fog-type ending, and I would have been okay with that. That's not the way this goes, though. In the end, everyone gets away with what they've done, Jim is a monster after all, Arlene and her family are reconciled, and she and Burr presumably live happily ever after. It's just too perfect. Murder doesn't end that way. Or, it does, sometimes, but very, very rarely. Arlene & Co. are just primed to be starring on an episode of Cold Case 25 years from now. That last chapter knocked a couple of stars off my rating of this one. A more "flawed" ending for Arlene & Co. would have been more satisfying, I think; heart-wrenching, yes, but I think Jackson could have pulled it off if she tried. She just didn't try.