Gods in Alabama

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2005, 12:00am

Gods in Alabama


by Joshilyn Jackson


Hodder & Stoughton, $195


Don't be turned off by the synopsis on the back of Joshilyn Jackson's debut novel. Gods in Alabama is better than it appears, although it takes a few chapters to get a grip. Arlene Fleet has abandoned her southern family for a sequestered life in Chicago, where she's in a serious relationship, despite abiding by promises she made 10 years ago never to have sex again, never to lie again and never to return home. But a former acquaintance from Alabama turns up one day, forcing Arlene to re-examine the past. As if that isn't bad enough, Arlene's African-American boyfriend wants to meet her family. The narrative flips back and forth, deftly adding tension to a plot that becomes less improbable and more absorbing with every godly pledge Arlene breaks. 'All she wanted from Him,' it seems, 'was to make sure the body was never found.' The murder of a young man is the crux of her problems. Jackson's light, humorous touch and characterisation will win her the kind of fans who connected with the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Rebecca Wells.