Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
Published October 2015 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam Sr.—the future parents of Homer Hickam Jr.—were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.
Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days in Florida every day because of Buddy’s unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert who lived in the only bathroom in their little house. Eventually Homer gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or the alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do—carry Albert home.
If you've ever read Daniel Wallace's Big Fish or seen the movie it inspired, you have some idea what you can expect with Carrying Albert Home. Quirky, a bit fantastical, and loaded with larger than life characters, Carrying Albert Home is the absolutely charming "somewhat true story of a man, his wife, and her alligator." It's also the story of how a woman learned to love her husband and make peace with the life she'd chosen. It is sweet and sad and, did I mention, charming.
When Homer Hickam Sr. agrees to travel to Florida to carry Albert home, he imagined a two-week trip from West Virginia - straight there, straight home. He was, after all, a miner with a home and the only job he could imagine ever having. Elsie, on the other hand, sees this as her chance to get out of West Virginia for good, with or without Homer. She has never gotten over Buddy and spending the rest of her life in a coal town is not in her plans. Along the way they pick up a rooster who befriends Albert, get caught up with union strikers, become movie actors, become a nurse and a baseball player, fly an airplane, get caught in a hurricane, and meet John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. At least, those are the stories his parents told Homer over the years. Homer never knew whether or not they were true, but those stories taught him more about his parents and their relationship than all the years of watching them together ever had.
Thanks so much to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions about Carrying Albert Home, check out the full tour at TLC Book Tours.
Homer Hickam (also known as Homer H. Hickam Jr.) is the bestselling and award-winning author of many books, including the #1New York Times memoir Rocket Boys, which was adapted into the popular film October Sky. A writer since grade school, he is also a Vietnam veteran, a former coal miner, a scuba instructor, an avid amateur paleontologist, and a retired engineer. He lives in Alabama and the Virgin Islands. Find out more about Homer at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.
I highly recommend the movie October Sky, if you haven't seen it. I'm certainly hoping Hickam has more personal history he'll share with readers soon!