Billy Beede, the teenage daughter of the fast-running, no-account, and six-years-dead Willa Mae, comes home one day to find a fateful letter waiting for her: Willa Mae's burial spot in LaJunta, Arizona, is about to be plowed up to make way for a supermarket.
As Willa Mae's only daughter, Billy is heiress to her mother's substantial but unconfirmed fortunea cache of jewels that Willa Mae's lover, Dill Smiles, is said to have buried with her. Dirt poor, living in a trailer with her Aunt June and Uncle Roosevelt behind a gas station in a tumbleweedy Texas town, and pregnant with an illegitimate child, Billy knows that treasure could mean salvation. So she steals Dill's pickup truck and, with her aunt and uncle in tow, heads for Arizona with Dill in hot pursuit. While everyone agrees it's only polite to speak of getting mother's body and moving her to a proper resting place, it's well understood that digging up Willa Mae's diamonds and pearls will make the whole trip a lot more worthwhile.
The enormously accomplished fiction debut from Suzan-Lori Parks, the 2002 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Getting Mother's Body takes its place in the company of the classic works of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker. But when it comes to an ingenious, uproarious knack for depicting the trifling, hard-luck, down-and-out souls who need a little singing and laughing and lying and praying to get through the day, Suzan-Lori Parks shares the stage with no one.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review - Laura Miller
... a straightforward, light-footed novel with none of the bleak, doomy undertones [of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying]; it's just about as funny and not nearly as scary.
The New York Times - Michiku Kakutani
In recounting their stories, Ms. Parks has written a convincing if modest book that suggests her future as a novelist may be as bright as her career in the theater.
The Washington Post - Susan Straight
Though I've read countless novels, I had never read one like this ... told in a chorus of completely unexpected voices, as befits the first novel from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter.
Kirkus Reviews - Jennifer Rudolph Walsh/William Morris
More conventional in form and less excitingly engaged with American history than her plays, but good enough to cause hope that more may come.
Fueled by irresistible, infectious talk and prose that swings like speech, this novel begs (no surprise) to be read aloud.
Parks ... has ably transferred her talent for character and dialog from the stage to the pages of her first novel, a series of monologs by a close-knit group of characters.
The Los Angeles Times - Michael Harris
… a trip well worth taking.
Pearl Cleage - author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day
... a story whose characters are as mysterious and sexy as lace curtains billowing at the bedroom window.
Richard Russo - author of Empire Falls
Suzan-Lori Parks is a terrific writer whose characters don't so much talk to us as sing, full-throated, of their joys and miseries.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
A wonderfully entertaining read. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a central or supporting character, all of whom are quirky and unconventional. You soon learn whether or not the jewels are buried with Billy's mother, or do you?... Read More
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