"Your mama," said Elinor, "is peering at us through the camellia bushes."Synopsis: When the floodwaters recede from Perdido, Alabama, they leave behind a mysterious woman with hair the exact red of the clay banks of the river. Also, she may or may not be a crocodile. Sometimes.
Okay now look, y'all, it is not every day that a book comes along which flat out spells out for you that the heroine is, in actuality, a crocodile. That alone might make it my favorite book of the year. But above and beyond that, it's just *good*. It's not so much creepifying as it is a spectacle of family disaster; a soap opera featuring what has to be the worst mother in existence, and the havoc she wreaks on her children's lives. Also, there's a severed head. In case you needed more selling on this book.
When Oscar Caskey rescues the lovely and mysterious Elinor, he is willing to overlook the fact that there's really no way she could have survived in a flooded hotel room for four days without food or water, and that it's very convenient that the flood washed away all her ID, and that her very existence makes his overbearing mother chew glass.
His sister, Sister, (who reminds me terrifyingly of Norma in The Memory of Running) is ambivalent, except when her mother throws things, which, after Elinor moves in with Oscar's semi-bachelor (read: gay as a newt) brother and his daughter, happens quite a lot.
Then there's the matter of the river, and Oscar's brother's wife, and the Winchester Mystery House next door.
The writing is sleek and eel-like, the descriptions are lush and eerie; the plot keeps you guessing and the characters are beautifully drawn and delineated. I read it straight through in one sitting and now am chomping at the bit to find the other FIVE VOLUMES in the series.
Look, do you have any idea how tempting it is, after reading a book with a crocodile-shifting heroine, to write a book review that consists entirely of metaphors for snapping, chewing and crunching? It's hard, people! I'm here to tell you this.
Anyway, five stars.
"I'm rooting for the crocodile. I hope he swallows your friends whole." --Mrs. Bickerman, "Lake Placid" (1999)