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Boys of Alabama


Boys of Alabama

BOYS OF ALABAMA by Genevieve Hudson is a complex and beautifully rendered coming-of-age story set in a small southern U.S. town. It is both utterly realistic and full of magic. Readers meet Max just as he arrives from Germany to Alabama where his father has moved the family for work. There is culture shock and the shock of the new humid landscape, and there is also all that the teen is leaving behind. What he has brought with him to the town of Delilah is the memory of his best friend and first love, Nils, and the ability to raise the dead.

The details of Max’s relationship with Nils are made known incrementally over the course of the novel, though it is obvious that it ended with loss. And though Delilah seems strange and overwhelming to him, Max is looking forward to starting over. When he begins school at God’s Way, he is recruited by the football team and taken under their collective wing. Here he finds a group of friends and an outlet for his love of running. The team is a good distraction from his sadness and feelings of dislocation, not to mention his strange ability and compulsion to bring plants and animals back to life with just a touch. This power, unquestionably presented by Hudson, drains Max and gives him debilitating headaches. It is a bewitchment that he wishes he could rid himself of.

"...a complex and beautifully rendered coming-of-age story... BOYS OF ALABAMA is a fantastic book and a difficult read that is brutal, potent, and full of sadness and passion."

This natural magic, as well as Max’s sexuality, comes into dangerous conflict with the powers that be in Delilah. The Judge, a politician and evangelical said to have come back to life after falling off a cliff and ingesting poison, is also the father of Lorne, a boy on the football team with Max. As Max settles into life in Delilah, he comes under great pressure to work for the Judge’s election campaign and become saved in his church, both of which create a new tension between Max and his skeptical mother. But this Alabama culture is intoxicating for Max and gives him a way to avoid thinking about Nils and confronting his loneliness, loss and sorrow.

However, Max’s real focal point in the novel is Pan. Pan is an unlikely figure in Delilah, an openly gay teenager of Puerto Rican descent who is usually wearing makeup and practices witchcraft. Max is immediately attracted to Pan, and the feeling seems to be mutual. The two begin a relationship that is not quite secret even as Max dives deeper into the hyper-masculine realm of God’s Way football and the Judge’s brand of Christianity. Pan brings his own anguish and past injuries to the relationship and eventually will demand of Max an onerous test of loyalty.

Hudson’s novel hums with danger, violence and tension. Max is a traumatized character whose wounds are repeatedly reopened, even as new ones are inflicted. Just as the sensuality and secrets of Delilah were said to bring down the strongman Samson, Delilah, Alabama, is an earthly and hedonic den of temptation and peril for Max. The Judge easily could veer toward the comical, but in him Hudson creates a terrifying symbol of oppression, close-minded religiosity, and horrific yet alluring power.

BOYS OF ALABAMA is a fantastic book and a difficult read that is brutal, potent, and full of sadness and passion. Contrasting doubt and belief, will and passivity, fear and strength, it is insightful, weird and mysterious, containing just the right amount of sweetness and wonder amidst what is otherwise quite scary.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 29, 2020

Boys of Alabama
by Genevieve Hudson

  • Publication Date: May 18, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright
  • ISBN-10: 1631499025
  • ISBN-13: 9781631499029