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Getting Mother's Body

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  964 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks’s wildly original debut novel, Getting Mother’s Body, follows pregnant, unmarried Billy Beede and her down-and-out family in 1960s Texas as they search for the storied jewels buried—or were they?—with Billy’s fast-running, six-years-dead mother, Willa Mae. Getting Mother’s Body is a true spiritual successor to the work of writers such ...more
Paperback, 263 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,617)
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David Simonetti
I absolutely hated this book. The writing style was bizzarre and unreadable and the plot was no better. How this ever got published is beyond me. I would avoid this like the plague.
Lisa
I love any book that starts out with the words: "Where my panties at?" This is very much like Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in the style as well as premise; however, Parks' novel is much more riveting.
Kima
This is the best gotdamn book I have read in a long, long time. Talk about a story and characters. Lord, this book was excellent. Billy Beede for life.
Mocha Girl
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks's debut novel, Getting Mother's Body, has an affinity to William Faulkner's classic, As I Lay Dying, only this time, Parks has flipped the script in a couple of areas. First, instead of taking a body home to be buried, the characters are planning to exhume the remains of one "high-strung, party girl/singer", Willa Mae Beede; and secondly, the characters are African American, the setting is 1963 rural Texas, and the lead character is Billy Beede, a poor pregnant, unwed ...more
Lee
Forgettable......... in fact, so forgettable that when entering books from my old file of book lists (that I kept before goodreads!) I had to look it up and then could not remember anything particularly redeeming about it except that I did finish it. Another review on goodreads compares this to Zora Neale Hurston -- Yikes, I certainly did not think so!
Keka
My favorite kind of book is a book told from the different perspectives of the various characters. This was that kind of book. The plot and premise alone make it worth 3 stars. It was a clever creative story. I laughed, I yelled, I sighed, I hoped, I was let down. It was an emotional roller coaster.

Billy Beede worked my nerves for about 90% of the book. Most of the characters irritated me, actually. The only one I liked consistantly was Laz. I'm definitely Team Laz. That's why the ending made m
...more
Laura Cushing
The book jumps back and forth between many points of view. Even some minor characters who only appear briefly. I enjoyed that and didn't find it offputting as some reviews seem to - it was easy enough to keep up with the pov character's name being given at the start of that section.

I liked the story and how it came together, and the setting in the sixties at the dawn of the civil rights movement. The plot of a treasure that may or may not have been buried with the main character's mother is inte
...more
Sharyl
Getting Mother's Body (2003) was the debut novel written by Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the 2002 Pulitizer Prize for Drama for her play called Topdog/Underdog, and also won a MacArthur genius grant in 2001.

I mention the fact that she's a playwright first because then it's no surprise when I insist that Parks has a real talent for writing dialog. That's important in a novel, especially to us sub-vocalizers, and these particular characters do not talk or act like the people living next door to most
...more
Patrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth
Engrossing, well written tale of a black family populated with an eclectic group of characters(pregnant 16 yr. old, lapsed preacher & his one legged wife, lesbian pig farmer, mortician's son....). The pregnant 16 yr old is off to dig up her mother's body because rumour has it her Mom (willa mae) was borrowed with her diamond & they all need the $$.

The author is a professor @ CalArts in Valencia. I liked it-a very fast read!
Lily
Inspired by As I Lay Dying (which I haven't read, but would like to), this detailed a ragtag southern Black family driving out to dig up their mother and sister from her burial place in LaJunta and to steal the jewels she was buried with. I didn't love the switching perspectives, but that's obviously where the As I Lay Dying comes in. I didn't really think any of the characters were drawn well enough for me to form an opinion about them. The whole thing was fairly forgettable unfortunately. I re ...more
Lori
Not too many books make me laugh out loud. This one did. I can't wait to read something else by Ms. Parks.
bookczuk
what a fun read it was, with great characters and an premise that cracked me up. Funny thing is that I kept seeing Billy Beede as trailer park white, when this is more like Faulkner with an African American re-write. I later found out that though this is the author's first novel, she wrote an award winning play, which explains why the dialog was so good that it begged to be read out loud.

From the Publisher

Billy Beede, the teenage daughter of the fast-running, no count -- and six years dead -- Wi
...more
JBradford
Suzan Lori Parks is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which I guess just goes to show. I am somewhat baffled as to why the NACCP has not risen up in arms about this novel, which recounts the mishaps of a group of poor blacks who get involved in a project of traveling from Texas to Arizona to dig up the body of the mother of the main protagonist (for lack of a better word), because the grave is about to be bulldozed into a shopping mall parking lot, and the protagonist, Billy Beede, is a pregnant teenage ...more
Molly
Sep 25, 2009 Molly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Molly by: Lori - loridjohnson.blogspot
Shelves: fiction
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had not just read Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" earlier this year. Because all I did while reading this was compare it to the classic that I enjoyed very much.

Faulkner's is about a very poor family's mother who dies and then gets carted all over creation in the best illustration of Murphy's Law you might ever read. There is quite a bit of humor mixed in with some pretty heavy commentary on society.

Parks' is about a very poor family of sorts who deci
...more
A B
This story of an extended family preparing to dig up a grave with the official purpose of relocating the deceased woman, and unofficial purpose of finding some jewelry she's allegedly buried with might sound horrific or a type of dark comedy had it been written by someone without Suzan-Lori Parks' writing talents. (For reference, the last modern book I can think of that I'd put in this same category of writing would be "Bastard Out of Carolina"). The novel is narrated from different family membe ...more
Alisa
"Where my panties at?" is a great first line for a novel. Reading that line in someone else's review is what convinced me to read this.

So..Kind of like Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' except they aren't taking the body, they're getting the body. Different characters narrate alternate chapters, and almost of all of them are Beades, which is a family name and a chronic affliction ('Beade-ism').

Billy Beade;s mother died in Arizona and was buried with her 'treasure'. Billy has an urgent need for the $$
...more
Jessica
My Amazon review: Detailing the adventures of Billy Beede and her non-traditional family on their quest from Texas to Arizona to get "treasure" buried with Billy's mother in order to fund an abortion for Billy's "bigged" belly (by a married, custom coffin maker), Suzan-Lori Parks' first novel is intelligent, well-written and enjoyable.

While the plot is darkly comic and compelling, the real pleasure of this book is the writing which is full of wonderfully emotional descriptions but is not overblo
...more
Kirstie
I thought this would be a great book from the back cover...it received a really thrilling sounding review from Richard Russo and this author had won the Pulitzer for a drama she had written. I found it to be incredibly dull with characters that were all immensely unlikable. Set in a small Texas town in the 1960s, while some African Americans were traveling to D.C. to hear MLK forty years ago, others were apparently traveling around Texas to dig up the body of a mother buried with her jewels. Wel ...more
Joe
Getting Mother's Body along with ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere are two of the freshest, most exciting works of African American fiction that I have come across in years. They're also two of the best books I've bought this year. Both books (Packer's is a collection of short stories) eschews the common girlfriends/black-men-are-no-good themes of most comtemporary black writers like McMillan and shy away from more cerebral themes like Morrison or Walker. Instead this is fiction, straight fo ...more
Kurt
I will start by saying that I really wanted to like this book better than I did. I was hopeful because the book started well. I was caught up in the different character's voice's, their dialect and phrasing set each character nicely apart as the narration duties swung from one character to the next. I could taste the dust of the Lincoln, Texas streets where the main characters lived in poverty and racial seclusion and feel the grit of their disappointed lives begin to come into focus. However as ...more
Rae
Definitely a book where I had to let go from the beginning because it's a different world and the choices these characters make would not be mine. Interesting characters who all get the chance to narrate one or more of the short chapters. An easy, quick read but with some substance. More anxiety provoking than uplifting, but left me with a feeling of "that was cute".

A quote chosen at random - this one in the voice of Roosevelt Beede - the uncle of the main character, Billy.
--The life of a Negro
...more
Carol Peters
I'd never heard of Suzan-Lori Parks until Carole Maso mentioned her. GMB is an emotional & farcical novel about poor blacks living in the 1950ish South. Billy Beede's knocked up & looking for abortion money. She decides to travel to where her mother's body is buried & dig her up for the jewels allegedly buried with her. Various crimes & misdemeanors along the way. Entertaining.
Poingu
I enjoyed reading it for the most part. There was wit, and love. It wasn't great though because I never felt the author had any idea of why she was writing this novel, other than that she knows how to write a good sentence so she might as well write a book's worth. So the book remained at the level of superficial entertainment that got a little annoying and then tedious by the end because in spite of being a road trip book it never went anywhere.
E.R. Yatscoff
A decent story about poor American blacks, their relatives and their friends trying to improve themselves on a dead woman's rumored riches. Each character has their own chapter and point of view. The dialogue is written as they'd sound so it is different in that way. Flowing style and a glimpse into small town life as well.
Ryan Mishap
Acclaimed playwright’s first novel is a slightly skewed, wacky story with real enough emotion about a poor Texan family and their quirks. The Mother in the title was a raucous-living blues singer who lived with a woman passing as a man for awhile. She’s buried in Arizona, supposedly with valuable jewelry, and her daughter—desperate for an abortion after being impregnated by a married man—wants to dig her up before a development project tears up the grave at her Aunt’s hotel. It’s a race to Arizo ...more
Miss Karen Jean Martinson
I heart SLP!

Seriously, what a great read. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters, so it reads almost like extended prose monologues that flow in beauty and simplicity the way that Parks's writing usually does. Yet the subject - how much are we fated to act out our lives (and isn't this the stuff of all great literature) is played out uniquely, through the discussion of Beede blood and Beede luck contrasted through the admissions of guilts - most tiny, some large - w
...more
The Book Posh
This book had no effect on me whatsoever. I really wanted to stop reading it on page 20, but I forced myself to finish. I didn't learn anything from this story or get attached to any of the characters. I can't even bring myself to write a real review. I'm just happy to be finished. Now, I can move on to the next book on my "to-read" list.
Harley
This is my new favorite novel of the moment. I had more fun reading this than anything in a long time. Suzan-Lori Parks was a new author for me, and I guess this is her only novel. She received a Pulitzer for a play in 2002, and she's foremost a playwright. I loved the heroine, Billy Beede, and her optimism and stubbornness in the face of one and then another plan that doesn't work out. She's unstoppable. She's surrounded by great characters with their own private stories. A satisfying twist at ...more
Delia
I was tempted to give this 5 stars, but since I did enjoy it on audio instead of reading it myself, I'm thinking that the author's engaging reading may have given it that entertaining edge. Still, the characters are so colorful and distinct and real, and the plot has momentum. The story takes place in 1963, in the South and Southwest, and it is told from the point of view of black characters, so you know it's going to touch on racism and segregation. This theme, however, is not heavy-handed. In ...more
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Suzan-Lori Parks is an award-winning American playwright and screenwriter. She was a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant in 2001, and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002. She is married to blues musician Paul Oscher.

More about Suzan-Lori Parks...
Topdog/Underdog (TCG Edition) Venus - Acting Edition The America Play and Other Works The Red Letter Plays In the Blood - Acting Edition

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“I’m gonna take your mother back to Lincoln,” I says. “I’m gonna get her a new coffin, a nice one, and a nice angel headstone. I’ll put her in the ground real good and all at my expense.” I expect Billy to smile or say thank you or something but she is looking hard at the wrapped quilt, thinking. There’s a part of the dress, just a little bit of the hem” 0 likes
“Folks take after they folks. That’s the law of nature. The thing about not watching my mother get old is that I wasn’t never sure what I was gonna get, cause if you don’t got yr folks to look at, if all you got is a little picture of a woman standing beside a cactus, a picture took by a man who weren’t even your daddy, then you don’t got a good idea really of where yr headed. When I seen her bones I knew what we all knew, that we’s all gonna end up in a grave someday, but there’s stops in between there and now. Right now I got my first child running around in the yard and another one on the way. Five years from now Laz gives me Mother’s diamond ring back. He’d never sold it in Dallas. The money he brought back was from his savings. Dill’s hog farm is going pretty good. Uncle Teddy’s got another church. There’s lots of things between now and them bones.” 0 likes
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