4 reviews

Gods in Alabama
by Joshilyn Jackson

Published: 2006-06-01
Paperback : 306 pages
55 members reading this now
33 clubs reading this now
25 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 4 members
For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene's door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene's break with her former hometown ...
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For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene's door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene's break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist)Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African American boyfriend. Reluctantly, Arlene bows to the pressure, and she and Burr embark on the long-avoided road trip back home. As Arlene digs through guilt and deception, her patched-together alibi begins to unravel, and she discovers how far she will go for love and a chance at redemption.

*Includes reading group guide

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter 1:

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. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions from the Publisher:

1. Who or what are the gods that the title refers to? Who are the gods in your hometown, workplace, or culture?

2. Arlene finds an imperfect but workable way to live around her family's deeply ingrained racism while maintaining the two most important relationships in her life. How satisfying is this compromise? Is it fair to Burr? To Florence? Should Arlene have asked for and expected more?

3. In what ways does Arlene's "deal with God" allow her to protect herself? How much of it is true penance and how much is a defense mechanism?

4. Arlene has painted a picture of Clarice as beautiful, pure, passive, and wholesome. How does idealizing Clarice influence Arlene's own behavior and sexuality?

5. Arlene's biological mother is almost a non-person in the book, and Arlene has surrounded herself with replacement mothers. Who are these replacements, and what aspects of mothering does she get from each of them?

6. The women in this novel generally tend to overpower the men, whether in conversation, romance, or physical altercations. Is this indicative of Southern society in general? What point might the author be making about gender relations in an outwardly traditional society?

7. The main character in this book is alternately known as Arlene and Lena. What are the distinguishing characteristics of Arlene? Of Lena? How do you think she would identify herself? By the end of the book, had she changed in your mind from one to the other, or had the two been integrated?

8. Arlene has clearly rehearsed a confession for years and years. How do you think her commitment to this retelling of the events of the past has shaped her current course of action?

9. Who is Jim Beverly? How do you reconcile the "pure-hearted, sole good man" Rose Mae Lolley has ever known with the scoundrel on Lipsmack Hill that fateful night?

10. What role does the Southern locale play in the novel? Could such a story take place in another region? Why or why not?

11. Forgiveness and atonement are two of the major themes in this novel. Who do you believe has done the most genuine atoning in this story? Who has the biggest sin to forgive?

12. Arlene baldly states that she is a game player, and she plays both literal and metaphorical games with Burr and the other characters throughout the novel. She is also, on some level, playing a game with the reader. How did you react to this? Do you think she played "fair"?

Copyright 2006 by Hachette Book Group USA

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Tammy B. (see profile) 11/24/18

  "Gods in Alabama"by Kay C. (see profile) 07/24/13

I had trouble with the first 2 chapters and didn't think I would like the book but, kept reading since it was for book club. I'm glad I did. I really enjoy stories that deal with human relationships and... (read more)

  "Some tough decisions"by F Tessa B. (see profile) 04/10/12

Audio book performed by Catherine Taber -- 3.5***

I have to admit I was engaged and fascinated by the thought processes of the teen-age (and “adult”) Arlene. Assumptions are flung

... (read more)

  "Not as good as Backseat Saints"by Carly H. (see profile) 12/15/10

I read Backseats Saints first and loved it, so I couldn't wait to read this one. While it was interesting to hear another point of view I didn't care for it as much. Maybe I would feel the opposite if... (read more)

  "Fun, But Didn't Meet my Expectations"by Jennifer C. (see profile) 08/26/10

I liked this book, but there were elements of it that were too far-fetched. I wish the author had explored the relationship between Lena and Burr a bit further, and hadn't glossed over the racial tensions... (read more)

  "We selected this as an example of Southern fiction - but in retrospect we believe there were many other "Southern" books which would have been preferrable to this."by caroline m. (see profile) 05/10/08

Not worth reading. Writing is not particularly good; plot is not very well developed; resolution of the mystery is improbable. The book club felt this was not worth their time.

  "Great read...surprising ending!"by Donna J. (see profile) 05/09/08

  "a great read - cute, but mysterous and you never know what will happen next"by Susan A. (see profile) 03/17/08

I picked this up on sale and then could not put it down! If you are from the south you will love the quirky relatives and their relationships and giggle at the dialogue. But the tone changes... (read more)

  "Plot twists to an ending that you never expect!"by Jennifer D. (see profile) 09/05/07

  "we liked it"by margot c. (see profile) 06/14/07

We thought this turned out to be a good book club selection. It generated a lot of discussion about the South, racism, relationships, keeping secrets, bargaining with God, perceptions. Som... (read more)

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