I almost stopped reading this. The very beginning of this book seemed clever but maybe a little too lightweight, until I got to page 25. Then I knew I had misjudged, and that this was a book I wanted to finish. And I was so pleased I did!
Arlene (or “Lena”) Fleet, age 27, hasn’t been back to Possett, Alabama in ten years, since she graduated from high school. She always had some excuse to stay in Chicago, but the real reason was that she had made a pact with God. In exchange for never lying, never fornicating, and never going back to Possett, she asked God to keep her safe from the repercussions of something bad that happened in Possett when she was fifteen.
But now, her African-American boyfriend Burr wants her to demonstrate her commitment by taking him to meet her family in Possett. And her life in Alabama is catching up with her in other ways, too, when an old friend comes looking for her. So she and Burr make the trip, and Lena is forced to confront not only her past, but her present, what with bringing a black boyfriend to meet her unsuspecting, very racist family. Somehow in the midst of all this, Lena must find redemption. And in the process, she learns secrets about herself even she didn’t know.
Evaluation: This book manages to be fun in spite of tackling serious subjects like lingering Southern racism, rape, depression, alcoholism, and abuse. These issues are blended into the story so well that you never feel like some author has come up with a weak plot just to be able to palm off social lessons on you. Moreover, the characters are treated with respect, and if they seem caricatured or stereotypical at first, it is only because the author has not yet revealed their depth to you. I am impressed with Jackson: it’s a very good book, and manages to be funny and suspenseful as well as having important messages to convey.
Published by Grand Central Publishing, 2005