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Getting Mother's Body: A Novel

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Getting Mother's Body: A Novel.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Suzan-Lori Parks(Author)

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Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks’s wildly original debut novel, Getting Mother’s Body, follows pregnant, unmarried Billy Beede and her down-and-out family in 1960s Texas as they search for the storied jewels buried—or were they?—with Billy’s fast-running, six-years-dead mother, Willa Mae. Getting Mother’s Body is a true spiritual successor to the work of writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker—but when it comes to bringing hard-luck characters to ingenious, uproarious life, Suzan-Lori Parks shares the stage with no one.

Like a country quilt, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks's spellbinding first novel, Getting Mother's Body, is pieced together from rags: short and slanted scraps of narrative recounted by various friends and members of the hard-luck Beede clan of Ector County, Texas. These sad, wily, bickering voices tell the story of Billy Beede--poor, unmarried, and pregnant--and her dead mother, the "hot and wild" blues singer, Willa Mae Beede, who may or may not have been laid to rest with a fortune of diamonds and pearls in her coffin. When a letter arrives announcing that a supermarket is being built on the ground where Willa Mae was buried, Billy determines to dig her up and get the jewels. But Willa Mae's embittered female lover, Dill Smiles, is just as intent on keeping the corpse in the ground. Deeper and richer than a typical quest novel, Getting Mother's Body is also the story of an African-American family, of beauty winding like bright thread through long-held grudges, hopelessness, and greed. --Regina Marler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. Parks, winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for her play Topdog/Underdog, puts her dramatic skills to good use in this fluid, assured debut novel, the story of a sweaty road trip from Texas to Arizona in July 1963. When stubborn 16-year-old Billy Beede gets knocked up and jilted by her sweet-talking, coffin-salesman lover, she needs money for an abortion. Her wild mother, Willa Mae, died when Billy was 10, and Billy lives with her "childless churchless minister Uncle and one-legged church-hopping Aunt" in a mobile home behind their rural Texas gas station. Billy's only hope for serious cash is to dig up her mother's body from its grave in LaJunta, Ariz., where Willa Mae was buried wearing a diamond ring and a pearl necklace. That, at least, is the story told by Willa Mae's one-time lover, Dill, a six-foot-tall "bulldagger, dyke, lezzy, what-have-you." Billy steals Dill's truck and, together with her aunt and uncle, embarks on a trip to Arizona to find her mother's body, her mother's treasure and her mother's memory. With disgruntled Dill in hot pursuit (chauffeured by Billy's dogged suitor, Laz, misfit son of the local funeral parlor owner), the three travel through the racist Southwest, meeting up with relatives, friends and foes. Parks narrates her brief chapters from the point of view of different characters, giving each a distinctive voice; blues songs are interwoven with the text. Parks's influences are evident-among them Zora Neale Hurston and Faulkner's As I Lay Dying-but the novel's easy grace and infectious rhythms are all her own. Fueled by irresistible, infectious talk and prose that swings like speech, this novel begs (no surprise) to be read aloud.Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Book details

  • PDF | 280 pages
  • Suzan-Lori Parks(Author)
  • Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 13, 2004)
  • English
  • 9
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Joseph Landes on June 7, 2014

    I need to start out by saying that I LOVED this book by Suzan-Lori Parks. Really loved it. The first 30 or so pages didn't start of particularly well for me and I wasn't sure I was going to like it but I pushed through and I am glad I did because it truly was an excellent book. A great combination of tragedy, folly, and comedy. Well written in what I would call great bursts of writing, the author tells the story of what can only be referred to as a family and a loose confederation of people on the road to recover what they think is "buried treasure" in the form of jewels that were buried with one Willa Mae Beede upon her death. The protagonist here--her daughter Billy Beede--is a knocked up 16 year old girl who isn't sure if she wants to keep her baby or get an abortion but she knows one thing for sure and that is she needs money. All of the characters in this small Texas town are poor as poor can be. So Billy comes up with this idea to go find her mother who she believes was buried with a pearl necklace and diamond ring, unearth her body, and sell the jewels for money. Unfortunately, getting to this small town is no small task and it appears many others have the same idea including her Uncle and one-legged Aunt, Willa Mae's lesbian lover Dill, and several others including a distant cousin Laz who they met on the way to dig up mom. A really well written book that will leave you alternately laughing and crying but also realizing that when someone is so poor, they would resort to almost anything they think is realistic to pull themselves out of poverty.

  • By Mocha Girl on May 12, 2003

    Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks�s debut novel, Getting Mother�s Body, has an affinity to William Faulkner�s classic, As I Lay Dying, only this time, Parks has flipped the script in a couple of areas. First, instead of taking a body home to be buried, the characters are planning to exhume the remains of one �high-strung, party girl/singer�, Willa Mae Beede; and secondly, the characters are African American, the setting is 1963 rural Texas, and the lead character is Billy Beede, a poor pregnant, unwed, high school dropout.After her mother�s (Willa Mae) untimely demise, Billy returns to Lincoln by her mother�s lesbian lover, Dill Smiles, to live with her maternal uncle, Roosevelt, and his wife, June, in their trailer behind a gas station. Billy becomes pregnant by a married man and believes an abortion will solve all of her problems. To get the money for the procedure, she plans a journey back to Arizona to recover the small fortune (a pearl necklace and diamond ring) which according to Dill adorns Willa Mae�s corpse. Billy is accompanied by an eccentric cast of characters, each with selfish desires for the treasure, each hoping it will �fill a hole.� These �holes� run deep ranging from pride, envy, debt to lust, unrequited love, childlessness, and spiritual loss. Billy becomes an expert in recognizing �holes,� i.e. finding one�s weaknesses, and uses her �gift� to manipulate her family and strangers to get what she wants�unknowingly becoming more like the con artist mother that she despises.This novel, told in first person by each lead character, causes the reader to experience the journey from differing viewpoints. Often times, the chapters represent character perspectives of the same event granting the reader the opportunity to �hear� multiple sides of the story. The author even interjects observations, blues songs, and ominous passages by the deceased Willa Mae. The use of monologues allows the reader to learn firsthand each character�s motivation, vulnerabilities, and haunted pasts; these elements contributed to the novel�s well developed characters. This reviewer also enjoyed the writing style and the extensive use of regional dialect to add realism to the dialogue.Without a clue on how this story was going to end until the end, I was happy that the journey ultimately brought about some semblance of absolution and redemption for the motley crew, which was a welcomed relief for an otherwise dismal tale. There is a lot more to this story than this review covers; one has to read to appreciate all the author has to offer. Ms. Parks shows great promise and if you enjoy deviating from the �relationship drama� of modern contemporary fiction, you may enjoy this book. I think readers who enjoyed eclectic works like Lolita Files�s Child of God and Olympia Vernon�s Eden might appreciate this novel.PhyllisAPOOO BookClub, The Nubian Circle Book Club

  • By Bruno Katz on May 16, 2014

    Parks takes the reader on a journey of discovery for heroine, Billy Bede. We get to know the whole family in their tragic and comic existence. We commiserate with Billy as she tries to deal with the Life that is growing within her and the mother who was larger than life and remains so even in death. Redemption is a key element for these basically good people and whilst they seem to fight against each other and their motives seem selfish, their humanity comes through. The author has a great ear for dialogue and once the reader gets into the flow it is lovely to the ear. A fine human novel.

  • By BelleMacabre on December 7, 2010

    One of the most innovative and cool aspects of Suzan-Lori Park's Getting Mother's Body is that she recorded a companion CD that has the songs that are written in the book. They're blues fun and Parks has good voice. They add a lot of depth and creativity to the novel and it's disappointing that they don't come with the book. If you want to hear them you have to buy them separately from CD Baby. Or, if you purchase the audiobook the songs are also on there.It's very much like William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying with multiple POVs as a family go on a journey together, all having their own motivations. There are so many themes. Gender. Homosexuality. Race. Spirituality. Morality. Adultery. Class differences. Capitalism. Teen pregnancy. Betrayal. Infertility. Patriarchy. Identity. Self-worth. And others. This, as one can imagine, spreads each subject a little thin.Overall, the writing isn't fantastic. The plot is fairly predictable and there are some noticeable holes. The ending seems very false.

  • By K. Donald on July 20, 2017

    Great book. Parks is a masterful storyteller.


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