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Getting Mother's Body

A Novel

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Billy Beede, the teenage daughter of the fast-running, no-account, and six-years-dead Willa Mae, comes home one day to find a fateful letter waiting for her: Willa Mae’s burial spot in LaJunta, Arizona, is about to be plowed up to make way for a supermarket.

As Willa Mae’s only daughter, Billy is heiress to her mother’s substantial but unconfirmed fortune—a cache of jewels that Willa Mae’s lover, Dill Smiles, is said to have buried with her. Dirt poor, living in a trailer with her Aunt June and Uncle Roosevelt behind a gas station in a tumbleweedy Texas town, and pregnant with an illegitimate child, Billy knows that treasure could mean salvation. So she steals Dill’s pickup truck and, with her aunt and uncle in tow, heads for Arizona with Dill in hot pursuit. While everyone agrees it’s only polite to speak of getting mother’s body and moving her to a proper resting place, it’s well understood that digging up Willa Mae’s diamonds and pearls will make the whole trip a lot more worthwhile.

The enormously accomplished fiction debut from Suzan-Lori Parks, the 2002 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Getting Mother’s Body takes its place in the company of the classic works of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker. But when it comes to an ingenious, uproarious knack for depicting the trifling, hard-luck, down-and-out souls who need a little singing and laughing and lying and praying to get through the day, Suzan-Lori Parks shares the stage with no one.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

May 19, 2003 – 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.
Getting Mother's Body
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: May 06, 2003
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 280 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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