Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) 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 with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.
Shona's review 4 of 5 starsSometimes when books sit in my review pile for too long I get very nervous about picking them up, almost as though they have spoiled whilst sitting and will leave a bitter after taste in my mouth. I'm sad to admit but that's where I was with this... and so I was more than a little nervous about picking this book up. I shouldn't have been though, right from the beginning Homer and Elsie had me hooked.
I liked Homer from the very beginning, he clearly loved his wife, but it seemed like in the beginning of their relationship and marriage he really didn't know how to relate to her. Which in turn made it difficult for Elsie to relate to him. I didn't particularly like Elsie in the beginning, but I could understand her brusque way of dealing with things. As the story progresses and we see Elsie experiencing some of the things she 'always wanted to do' we see her open up more, not just to the life around her but her life with Homer.
This isn't just a tale of how two people drove through four states to take an alligator home to Orlando, this is a tale of how two people drove through four states to find each other and their marriage. A tale that is full of adventures that make you squint your eyes and ask Really? whilst at the same time being entirely plausible.
This is the first time I have read anything by Homer Hickam, but it wont be the last.