Book Reviews

The Unsettled

By Ayana Mathis Alfred A. Knopf, 2023 Hardcover: $29.00 Genre: Fiction Reviewed by Edward Journey In The Unsettled, the new novel by Ayana Mathis, both Ava and her mother, Dutchess, are described as “drifters.” The drifting days of Dutchess, a former singer / songwriter who once traveled the club circuit, are long over; she is settled in the disappearing community of Bonaparte, Alabama – “NEGRO INCORPORATED TOWN, ESTABLISHED 1868,” and is trying to save the community and its remaining land from [...]

How to Survive the Apocalypse

By Jacqueline Allen Trimble University of Georgia/New South Books Imprint, 2022 Hardcover: $21.95 Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Susie Paul She’s a god / she’s a hero /She survived / all she been through / Confident / damn, she lethal (“Cozy") Beyonce Did I say something way too honest? Made you run and hide (“Forever & Always”) Taylor Swift I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you [...]

The Best of the Shortest: A Southern Writers Reading Reunion

Edited by Suzanne Hudson with Joe Formichella and Mandy Haynes Livingston Press, 2023 Paperback: $19.95 Genre: Short Stories Reviewed by Edward Journey Southern Writers Reading, a “literary slugfest” held on a pre-Thanksgiving November weekend in Fairhope, Alabama, from 1998 to 2008, has become legendary to those of us who heard about it but never attended. Now we have a welcome opportunity to get an abundant taste of what was in the new collection, The Best of the Shortest: A Southern Writers [...]

Versions of May

By Jim Murphy Negative Capability Press, 2023 Paperback: $15 Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Foster Dickson It is always nice to see a new release from a poet whose good work is familiar, and the poems in Jim Murphy’s new collection, Versions of May, were a pleasure to read. In addition to a slew of appearances in literary magazines, Murphy’s three previous collections and his involvement in the Montevallo Literary Festival brought him to the attention of many readers and poetry lovers [...]

The Untidy Pilgrim

By Eugene Walter with an introduction by Katherine Clark University of Alabama Press, 2001 Paperback: $24.95 Genre: fiction Reviewed by Don Noble In this review for Alabama Public Radio, Don Noble brings back to our attention an award-winning work by Eugene Walter. We hope his piece introduces new readers to the inimitable Eugene, native of Mobile and citizen of the world, and reminds the rest of us of his joyful presence. Every once in a while, in this space I reread [...]

Thinning Blood: A Memoir of Family, Myth, and Identity

By Leah Myers Norton, 2023 Hardback: $25.95 Genre: Memoir, Native American History Reviewed by Edward Journey The quiet, meditative, and occasionally fierce observations of Leah Myers in her memoir, Thinning Blood: A Memoir of Family, Myth, and Identity, make for a unique and memorable debut for the author, who currently lives in Alabama. Leah Myers’s great-grandmother, Lillian Cook Kardonsky, was a full-blooded member of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe of Natives on the Olympic Peninsula of what is now Washington State. Based [...]

Flawed Good People: Civil Rights Era Plays from Alabama

By Hubert Grissom Bowker; 2023 Hardback: $23.98; Paperback: $15.98 Genre: Plays and Commentary Reviewed by Edward Journey When I was working in and teaching theatre, a question we would often ask ourselves when dealing with a new script is Why is it a play? It was a practical question. We were considering the reasons this story might be best told visually, on a stage, with an audience watching. Would it be better served as a novel, a short story, an essay, [...]

Basses and Guitars: The Huckabee Collection

By Willie G. Moseley Acclaim Press; 2022 Paperback: $24.95 Reviewed by Doug Simms This book is a relatable look at one guitar and bass enthusiast’s musical journey, with plenty of deep dives into the instruments themselves. The fact that the player/collector is Mike Huckabee, former two-term Arkansas governor, twice presidential candidate, and now TV talk show host, makes for a lot of interesting instrument acquisitions and musical opportunities. If you’re wondering what you might have in common with Mike or his [...]

Arbor’s Reach

By Crystal H. Rogers and Hannah Star Rogers, Photographs by Hiram Harmon Rogers Edited by the late Hugo H. Rogers Amazon; 2021 Paperback: $10.98 Genre: Poetry, Photography Reviewed by Wendy Cleveland Arbor’s Reach is an extraordinary family collection of poems by Crystal H. Rogers and her daughter, Hannah Star Rogers, and photographs by their son/brother, Hiram Harmon Rogers. This book captures ordinary life in and around Auburn, Alabama. The cover photograph “Wisteria” was taken at the height of the spring color [...]

The Sun Has Gone to Bed

By Kelly Kazek Alabama Media Group, 2022 Hardcover, $17.99 Children’s Literature Reviewed by Karen Hilgartner In Kelly Kazek’s wonderfully engaging and beautifully illustrated picture book, The Sun Has Gone to Bed, parents of young children will easily relate to the familiar bedtime struggle. Bedtime approaches and Mama Deer reminds Little Spotted Fawn that “when the sun goes to bed, it’s time for you to go to bed, too.” Little Spotted Fawn’s response: “But I’m not sleepy yet.” Little Spotted Fawn’s character [...]

Five Points South: Poems from an Alabama Pilgrimage

By Nancy Owen Nelson Kelsay Books; 2022 Paperback: $20.00 Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Edward Journey Nancy Owen Nelson’s Five Points South: Poems from an Alabama Pilgrimage is a compact volume of impressionistic poems of memory, longing, love, family, regret, and reckoning. The poems trace the author’s evocative May 2019 journey from the southernmost part of Alabama to its northern reaches. While Nelson grew up as a “military brat,” her family regularly visited Alabama relatives. She lived in Alabama, after her father’s [...]

Completely Mad: Tom McClean, John Fairfax, and the Epic Race to Row Solo Across the Atlantic

By James R. Hansen Simon & Schuster; 2023 Hardcover, $28.95 Genre: Nonfiction Reviewed by Don Noble James R. Hansen is professor emeritus of history at Auburn University, now living in Birmingham. He is, by profession, an academic, but his subject matter, over 14 books, has been the most exciting imaginable, including a biography of Neil Armstrong and a book about the Challenger disaster. His new book, Completely Mad, is the day-by-day story of two very different men who, really by chance, [...]

Learning From Birmingham: A Journey Into History and Home

By Julie Buckner Armstrong University of Alabama Press 2023 Paper: $24.95 Genre: Non-fiction Reviewed by Nancy Wilstach If you are, as am I, a transplant to Alabama, you surely have asked yourself about the white contemporaries who witnessed civil rights history in the making and wondered: “What were they thinking?” Specifically, those who were close in age to the African American children who withstood a steady stream of abuse simply to go to school or who lay fearfully in bed at [...]

Saturday and the Witch Woman: A Novel of Remembrance

By Thomas Oliver Ott WordCrafts Press; 2019 Paperback: $18.99 Genre: Historical Fiction Reviewed by Edward Journey Thomas Oliver Ott, in his meticulously researched historical novel, Saturday and the Witch Woman, combines his scholarly knowledge of the 1791 Haitian Slave Rebellion and its leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture; the American slave trade; and his own personal family history to craft a compelling and nuanced narrative focused on a real person, Kwambe Ansong. The name means “born on Saturday, seventh-born child” in Ansong’s native Lucumi [...]

We Were Angry: A Novella & Stories

By Jennifer S. Davis Press 53, 2022 Paperback: $19.95 Cloth or Paper: price Genre: Short Fiction Reviewed by Abby McGinn Jennifer S. Davis, originally from Alabama, serves as an associate professor of English at LSU and is the Director of the Creative Writing Program. She has previously published two other collections of short stories, winning the Iowa Award for Short Fiction for Her Kind of Want. Davis’s works have also appeared in The American Scholar, One Story, and The Paris Review. [...]

Unmasking the Klansman: The Double Life of Asa and Forrest Carter

By Dan Carter University of Georgia Press, NewSouth Books Imprint; 2023 Hardcover: $19.98 Genre: History Reviewed by Edward Journey Those who care to know are probably aware of the bizarre story of Asa Carter, the hate-mongering antisemitic Klansman and speech writer for George C. Wallace. After financial and reputational ruin, Asa Carter disappeared from public view for a time, “decided to become an Indian,” and reemerged as “Forrest Carter,” a Native American who wrote the novel that became Clint Eastwood’s popular [...]

Petrochemical Nocturne

By Amos Jasper Wright IV University of West Alabama, 2023 Paper, $22.95 Fiction Reviewed by Bill Plott Although a novel, this is also an extraordinary work of history. Using Cancer Alley as a setting, Wright has penned a book that is essentially about racism – the systemic and pervasive racism of not just the South but also the nation. Perhaps no white historian has told it with quite the passion that Wright brings to the table. Cancer Alley is the regional [...]

Outside from the Inside

By Anne Whitehouse Dos Madres, 2020 Cloth: $19.00 Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Foster Dickson Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Anne Whitehouse writes a highly personal kind of poetry that ranges in subject matter from personal observations to the imaginative consideration of historical figures. Thus, the title of her 2020 collection, published by Dos Madres Press, is quite appropriate: Outside from the Inside. The slim volume contains four sections: “Tides of the Body,” “It Wasn’t An Hallucination,” “The Ancient World,” and “A Dog’s [...]

Space Oddities: Forgotten Stories of Mankind’s Exploration of Space

By Joe Cuhaj Prometheus Books; 2022 Paperback: $21.95 Genre: Science Reviewed by Edward Journey With his heavily researched Space Oddities: Forgotten Stories of Mankind’s Exploration of Space, Joe Cuhaj has tapped into the space aficionado’s desire to know even more about the exploration of the proverbial “final frontier.” The book captures the true breathless fanboy spirit of its New-Jersey born, Alabama-based author who “applied to take part in NASA’s Journalist in Space program but never heard back.” Cuhaj, a Navy veteran [...]

Highway 28 West

By Joe Taylor Sagging Meniscus, 2023 Paperback: $19.95; Kindle: $8.99 Genre: Fiction Reviewed by Danny Gamble  Dust you are, and to dust you will return. Genesis 3:19 Take a cup of existentialism, add a tablespoon of phenomenology, and sprinkle a dash of nihilism. Stir and bake for 109 pages. The result? A Southern Gothic tale that takes no turns off Highway 28 West, the Highway to Hell. In reality, Highway 28 is a stretch of blacktop that runs through Sumpter, Marengo, [...]


By George H. Wolfe Livingston Press, 2022 Paper. $19.95 Genre: Fiction Reviewed by Jim Hilgartner At its most elemental, the narrative in Aftershock, a novel by George H. Wolfe, follows Dante Gabriel Larocca, an Army veteran wounded in a tank battle late in World War II, as he navigates the new battlefield of academia under the GI Bill. But there is nothing elemental about this compelling and complex story, which in lucid and vivid prose intertwines the fortunes of a disparate [...]

Loving Tallulah Bankhead

By Carrie Chappell Paris Heretics, 2022 Paperback Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Bee Baldwin Carrie Chappell’s Loving Tallulah Bankhead is an enchanting celebration of the non-conforming, untraditional, “fallen” women of the South with stage/film actress and Alabama native Tallulah Bankhead as its star. Tallulah starred in movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and appeared as Catherine the Great in A Royal Scandal, and she was nearly Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara. However, despite this acclaim, Tallulah Bankhead has been viewed as [...]

All Night, All Day: Life, Death and Angels

By Susan Cushman, editor MadVille Publishing, 2023 Paper: $19.95 Genre: Inspirational Reviewed by Cheryl Carpenter Contrary to assurances given to frightened children that “there’s no such thing as ghosts,” the poems, essays, short stories, and art of Susan Cushman’s All Night, All Day: Angels, Life and Death maintain that there are, indeed, ghosts and angels among us all the time. Twenty-five distinguished women – several with Alabama connections – have contributed to this intriguing collection with the common theme that people [...]

Southern Thesaurus: For When You’re Plumb Out of Things to Say

By Kelly Kazek with illustrations by Joshua J. Hamilton Alabama Media Group, 2022 Hardback: $19.99 Genre: Humor Reviewed by Abby McGinn Kelly Kazek is an award-winning journalist and humor columnist. She is the author of 19 books, which include picture books, chronicles of motherhood, and tales from her days as a reporter. She is especially known for writing about Southern culture, and her work currently appears on It’s a Southern Thing and her blog, Her numerous accolades include two Alabama [...]


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