Carrying Albert Home – Homer Hickam

I am currently on a self-imposed book-ban.  I have hundreds of books on my ‘to be read’ pile and it’s not getting any smaller.  The Sunday mornings wandering round boot fairs have not been helping!  I’ve been getting books from the library where possible but sometimes a book leaps out at me and won’t let go.  I have to have it!  Right away!

As far as addictions go, my book addiction is fairly tame.  There are worse things to be addicted to.  Hell, I don’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  Friday night is more likely to find me sitting on the sofa with a good book, the cats and a cup of tea than at a wild party (I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wild party in my life!).

So yes, sometimes there are those books.  Any fellow reader will know what books I’m talking about and ‘Carrying Albert Home‘ looked different enough from all the usual dross that frequents Tesco’s shelves to be interesting.

I wasn’t wrong.  This a magical tale set in 1930s America.  The Great Depression is starting to bite, although it doesn’t have a big impact on Elsie Lavender and her stoic husband Homer who live in the coalfields of West Virginia.

Elsie is dissatisfied with her lot.  She lived in Florida before her marriage and longs for more. Her only memento of that time is her alligator Albert, who was presented to her by her ex-beau when she married Homer…

Then one day everything changes. Homer’s patience runs out when Albert chases him from the house in just his pants much to the amusement of the neighbours. Homer declares ‘it’s me or the alligator’, not altogether sure who Elsie will choose.  Elsie doesn’t seem sure either but eventually she decides that they must carry Albert home to Florida….and so begins their epic adventures and road trip.

It’s a charming tale that is described as a blend of fact and fiction.  Some of the tales are so tall that they can only be fiction!

This book reminds me of ‘A Man Called Ove‘, not in content but in style.  It is that same eccentric mix of crazy, quirky and original.  It is memorable in a market of bland, forgettable books, the kind of book that you would recommend to a friend (in fact I did just that yesterday at another boot fair!).

I found Elsie to be slightly selfish and self-obsessed and Homer to be weak but this didn’t detract from the story.  It wasn’t enough to make me hate them either.  It just showed their flaws, made them human.  Albert was absolutely adorable.  His relationship with Elsie reminded me of my relationship with my cat.  It really made me smile.  I’d love to have an alligator if it was allowed and I didn’t think they’d eat my cats!

Hickam is an engaging writer and I’m looking forward to reading his memoir, ‘Rocket Boys’.  Sadly the library doesn’t have it in stock so it looks like I’m going to have to indulge my guilty pleasure of buying books.  That’s going to be tough!