After reading Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (2005), which I enjoyed even more than Backseat Saints, I'm officially hooked on Jackson and her work. She's now on my instant buy for her new works, and I still have a couple more of her earlier books to read.
There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of "discovering" a new-to-you author who thoroughly engages your interest with his/her writing style and characters. I'm excited!
In Gods in Alabama, Arlene/Lena Fleet (I love how her characters have dual personalities and different first names to reflect their different life paths) has to do something she promised God to never do--return to her hometown, Possett, Alabama, after ten years in Chicago.
One reason for her return involves Ro/Rose from Backseat Saints appearing on her Chicago doorstep, and the other reason is the insistence of boyfriend Burr that he's leaving if she doesn't take him to meet her family--the aunt and uncle who basically raised her, the cousin who is more like a sister, and the mentally vacant mother who is still cared for by the aunt and uncle.
Why does Lena have this pact with God, one that also involves never lying and not sleeping with anyone? Because teenage Lena killed high school quarterback Jim Beverly, of course, and God's part of the pact involves the body never being found.
Told not only in the present of 1997, but with flashbacks to the events of the past, Lena provides a riveting first-person account of a complicated life--both as a twenty-something and as a teenager. And, right along with Backseat Saints, the story provides a look at blood ties and the strength of women's family relationships.
Kindle location 2081-2099:
[Phone call made at the side of the road to Aunt Florence right before Lena and Burr arrive in Possett to break the [false] news that they've just gotten married. Maybe this section appeals to me so much because my husband and I are also an inter-racial couple?]
Sarcasm flooded the phone and spilled out, soaking me. "I appreciate the news bulletin. Is there anything else you want to tell me while you are passing on this tidbit? Is your new husband that your family has never met an ex-convict, for example? Or are you just knocked up?"
As she spoke, I wiped my horse-feeding hand on my jeans and grabbed the phone, holding it a little away so Burr could hear. The cell phone's tiny speaker distorted Aunt Florence's powerful voice, and from this distance it sounded like nothing more than the quacking of an enraged duck. I put the phone back to my ear.
"I'm not pregnant, and he's not a convict. I told you, he's a lawyer. But while I've got you, I guess I should tell you he's black."
I clipped the phone between my chin and shoulder again. There was a long silence. I shared out another handful of popcorn among the horse and the ponies. Burr was watching me, rubbing his hand across his lips.
Finally she said, "What do you mean, he's black? You mean he himself is black? A black man?"
"Yes. By black, I mean he is black."
Florence took a deep breath and then spoke, her voice dead cold. "I am hanging up now, Arlene. I will take this up with you and your secret black husband when you arrive."
"Yes, you'd better go quick," I said. "You have less than two hours to get on the horn and tell everyone that Arlene married a black man just to piss you off. I wouldn't want Aunt Sukie to have live kittens if you don't get to prep her before Uncle Bruster's party. We have a large extended family--may I suggest a phone tree?"
My overall personal rating of Gods in Alabama is an A.