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Getting Mother's Body

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  1,124 Ratings  ·  150 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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David Simonetti
Nov 23, 2007 David Simonetti rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mocha Girl
Dec 11, 2009 Mocha Girl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2015 Londa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
I have attempted to read this book 2 or 3 times in the past, but could never really get into it. This time I listened to the audio which was narrated, and at times sung, by the author Suzan-Lori Parks. Evidently, therein lay the magic of this book. I really got the feel of the setting and era by experiencing it this way.

Really enjoyed this quirky story about a child, her dead mother, and that mother's buried treasure. All of the characters were well developed and each told the story of their gr
Sep 30, 2014 Kima rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 20, 2015 Keka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Nov 11, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 11, 2008 Lee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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!
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
Jun 09, 2015 poingu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 19, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Kathleen Ray
Aug 08, 2016 Kathleen Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick read. Read it in one day. Interesting characters. It reminds me of The Beans of Egypt Maine from the 1980s. Poor black and poor white people suffer almost the same sorrows and happiness. This book adds the unfairness of racism. I liked it as it had a sort of happy ending.
Sep 28, 2008 Lori rated it really liked it
Not too many books make me laugh out loud. This one did. I can't wait to read something else by Ms. Parks.
Apr 14, 2009 Medina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
uncomplicated genius touching the reality of familial greed, secrets and, lighter than the Color Purple but in the same vein.
Bryan R.
Jan 11, 2015 Bryan R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick read. Interesting story and characters. Definitely recommend to all.
ms dailey
Oct 27, 2015 ms dailey rated it really liked it
Absolute loved the last 3 chapters.
Rich, complex characters. Delicious dialogue. I really enjoyed it.
Oct 30, 2016 Debbie rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was somewhat different than what I assumed it would be but it was good nonetheless. I won't recount the whole story again in this review. The jacket synopsis does a pretty good job. You have to read the book because I definitely do recommend it. It's funny, quirky, down to earth and a little absurd but I enjoyed it. What an adventure with this rabble of characters. I only tired the slightest bit towards the end because I became impatient. Suzan-Lori Parks is a new ...more
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Jul 02, 2014 Patrick rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
humm..not sure how to go about writing a review for this book. It was just so different. I got really involved with the story and the characters but at the same time I felt that they could have been more fleshed out. I couldn't give it 5 stars only because I didn't enjoy the "song lyrics".
was amazed the this author came up with this story idea.
Didn't really enjoy the writing
Nov 15, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
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
Sep 25, 2009 Molly rated it liked it  ·  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
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
Jul 30, 2016 Sharyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chuckles
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
Nov 26, 2007 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Oct 12, 2013 Kurt rated it it was ok
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
Feb 25, 2013 A B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2008 Kirstie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought this would be a great book from the back 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
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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...

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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” 1 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.” 1 likes
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