Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam
|Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: Louise Jones
|Summary: Homer Hickam recounts a family legend about his parents' journey across America in search of a home for their precious pet alligator.
|Date: November 2015
|Publisher: Harper Collins
|External links: Author's website
Elsie and Homer Hickam were West Virginians and knew how to make their tales as tall as the hills that surrounded them on all sides. There is a Hickam family legend that has been told and retold so many times over the years that the lines between myth and reality have become well and truly blurred. Carrying Albert Home is the story of a man and his wife, a sweet pet alligator and a very lucky rooster who decide to take a road trip to Florida in 1935; the year of the Great Depression. What follows next is all completely true, well, except for the parts that are made up...
Coal miner Homer is a simple family man who works hard, loves his wife dearly and is content with the status quo. Unfortunately, his unsettled wife Elsie couldn't be more different. She hates life in the small mining town of Coalwood and yearns for her former life in Florida, where she was romanced by a handsome young actor and dancer called Buddy Ebsen. Her pet alligator, Albert, was a wedding gift from Buddy and all she has to remind her of those happy times. When Homer makes Elsie choose between him and the 'gator, Elsie makes the decision to drive across America to Florida to take Albert home. But will she be returning with Homer, or staying with her beloved Albert?
During the course of their journey, the couple (and the alligator) have plenty of unusual adventures, including blowing up a sock factory, robbing a bank, playing professional baseball, joining the coastguard, learning to fly and starring in a movie. Each story is told in such a fascinating and engrossing manner that we really do start to wonder how much of it is actually true. Albert, of course, is the star of the show and anyone who does not think that an alligator can be cute and adorable may have a change of heart after reading this book.
Hickam is a master storyteller and breathes a special type of magic into the pages of his book that brings the story to life in glorious technicolor. The reader is instantly transported to small-town America and becomes another passenger in the Hickam's Buick. The relationship between Homer and Elsie had an interesting dynamic and we are constantly left wondering how they are going to reconcile their differences, knowing that they must, otherwise this book would have had no author!
I have never read a book quite like this one and it is one of those off-the-wall stories that would be ideal for a movie adaptation. I'd love to see Albert on the big screen in his little sailor hat, making his happy yeah-yeah sound as Elsie rubs his creamy belly. Hickham has done his late parents proud in sharing their special story and I'm sure that they would have loved the fact that a wider audience can now enjoy it too. Many thanks for my review copy.
For more Floridian fun, try Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, the tale of a teenage alligator wrestler and her family in a failing Florida theme park.
Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam is in the Top Ten General Fiction Books for 2015.
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