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Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator

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Big Fish meets The Notebook in this emotionally evocative story about a man, a woman, and an alligator that is a moving tribute to love, from the author of the award-winning memoir Rocket Boys—the basis of the movie October Sky

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.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys/October Sky a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published September 24, 2015

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About the author

Homer Hickam

30 books617 followers
Homer Hickam (also known as Homer H. Hickam, Jr.) is the author of many best-sellers including his latest, Don't Blow Yourself Up. An eclectic writer, he wrote the "Coalwood Series," which includes the # 1 New York Times best-selling memoir Rocket Boys, (made into the ever-popular movie October Sky) the World War II-era "Josh Thurlow" series, the juvenile sci-fi "Crater" series, the adult thriller The Dinosaur Hunter, the romantic Red Helmet, and many others. Among his many writing awards are the University of Alabama's Clarence Cason Award and the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award plus an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Marshall University. For more information on Mr. Hickam and his books and cats and everything else, please go to http://www.homerhickam.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,012 reviews
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,302 reviews450 followers
May 2, 2016
This was a solid 3 star read for me. A humorous, witty story, with a lot of very funny scenes. It was probably my fault, but I did not realize from the beginning that it was intended as a farce, with everything overly dramatised for the sake of the story. I had thought that it was mostly rooted in fact, when it was actually based on the tall tales that Hickam's parents had told to their children growing up. They did have an alligator that they took back to Florida, but the scenes that took place on the journey were so far-fetched they almost lost me. Once I realized it, though, it was a fun read.

A few years ago there was a really great movie, "O, Brother, Where Art Thou?" It was a wonderful romp through the depression era south, really over the top, non-stop action, with great music and acting. This book reminded me a lot of that. If Homer Hickam can get the Coen brothers interested in producing this book as a film, it would be an equal success.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews842 followers
May 11, 2016
Carrying Albert Home: Lessons From the Road

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam was chosen by Tom Mathews as his Moderator's Choice for On the Southern Literary Trail for May, 2016. Many thanks to Tom and especially to Homer Hickam who participated in a Question and Answer Discussion with the Group about his novel.


Let us be lovers,
We'll marry our fortunes together.
I've got some real estate
Here in my bag.

Paul Simon, 1968

Do yourself a favor and read Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam. It will make you feel good. It will make you smile, laugh, cry, and appreciate the great mysteries of life. Mysteries such as why we're here, where we've been, where we're going, and what's the point of it all.

“But that’s what kismet is. It makes us careen off in odd directions from which we learn not only what life is about but what it is for. This journey may be nothing less than your chance to discover these things.”-The Captain, Homer's wise employer

On the surface of things, this is the tale of a great American road trip from Coalwood, West Virginia, all the way to Key West, Florida, in 1935, in the midst of the great depression. The travelers are Homer and Elsie Hickam, the author's parents. The purpose of the trip is to carry Albert home. Albert the alligator, a wedding gift from Buddy Ebsen, whom Elsie had known in Orlando, Florida, before Ebsen decided to journey to New York City in search of stardom as a dancer.

Albert represents something decidedly different to Homer and Elsie. Elsie viewed Albert as a gift solely to her from a handsome young man who became a star, the possibility of a love that might yet be fulfilled. She hates the West Virginia town of Coalwood. She wonders whether she should be married to coal miner Homer Hickam.

For Homer Hickam, Albert represents a competitor for his wife's affections. Buddy Ebsen is a phantom he cannot fight. Homer knows he is a coal miner, that he will never be a star, that he cannot even dance. When Albert clamps his toothy grin on Homer's pants leg, Homer issues an ultimatum. Either Albert goes, or he goes. To his dismay, Elsie thinks about it a week before she agrees to give up Albert, but only if Homer carries Albert home to Florida. With Elsie, of course, who never wants to return to Coalwood again.

What follows is a series of adventures and misadventures of epic proportion through great depression America. With $100.00 borrowed from the coal company and a 1925 Buick Touring Car, Homer doggedly drives south towards Florida. Albert rides in the back seat in a wash tub, showing his approval by his happy sounds of "Yeah, yeah, yeah." A mysterious rooster flies through the window to either perch on Albert's head or Homer's shoulder. Neither Albert nor Elsie ever understand why the rooster is there. Perhaps, it's pointed out by more than one person they encounter on the journey, he's a guardian angel, or spirit.

And perhaps there's more to this journey than the simple purpose of carrying Albert home. Both Homer and Elsie have a lot to learn about themselves and each other. Sometimes the point of a journey lies not in the destination but journey itself. Isn't that the perfect allegory for what we call life?

So, it should come as no surprise that Homer's attitude toward Albert should begin to change. How many alligators can stop a bank robbery? Nor should it come as a surprise that Elsie increasingly notices Homer's dependability in doing what is necessary to take Albert home.

Every odyssey needs its sage. Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator presents two; John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway. They serve as bookends to the love story of Homer and Elsie Hickam. Between strike breaking in North Carolina and the Great Hurricane of 1935, in which these two literary icons figure, Elsie and Homer learn much of life and each other.

“So, you met Steinbeck,” mused Hemingway over his port after the women had left. “It is a fateful peculiarity that you might meet him and me at virtually the same time. To what do you attribute that, Homer?” “I don’t know, sir,” Homer answered. “Just the way it worked out, I guess.” “Don’t you believe it. There are no coincidences in life. Although the big God of the Hebrews might be the greatest of them, I believe there are small gods who watch out and sometimes determine our fate. I believe they also like to have a little fun with us from time to time. Kismet. You heard of it?”

This is tall tale telling at its best. Hickam weaves his story in the loom of family legend. Each of us have similar stories passed down within our own families. These tales are the ones we cherish and serve as the glue that blesses the familial ties that bind. As the little man
Michaleen Oge Flynn said in John Ford's The Quiet Man "Homeric! Impetuous!"

A story that's almost true? I believe every word of it.


Buddy Ebsen

Ebsen showed up in NYC in 1928 with $26.75 and his sister, Vilma. Ebsen took a job in a soda fountain. Both he and his sister were dancers and began their professional career in Broadway chorus lines. He broke into films in 1935. Ebsen signed with MGM at $1500 a week. Not bad for the great depression. He was set to star as the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz." The aluminum makeup made him seriously ill. Throughout his life he referred to Oz as "that damned movie." Ebsen pulled out of the cast.

Ebsen is best remembered as Jed Clampett. But he was also Doc Golightly, Holly's much older husband in "Breakfast at Tiffanys." After the run of Beverly Hillbillies, Ebsen put in eight seasons, nearly 180 episodes of "Barnaby Jones," from 1973 to 1980.

Ebsen was married three times. He died in 2013. His exact net worth is unknown, but he died a multimillionaire.

Rich? Depends on how you define wealth. I put my money on Homer, Sr. and Elsie.

 photo Ebsen 1928_zpsujlfuwgu.jpg
Buddy Ebsen, Promotional Photo, Circa 1928

 photo Buddy_Ebsen_Tin_Man_zpsav9ul3xy.jpg
Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935

From Wikipedia:

The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane is the strongest and most intense hurricane to make landfall in the United States and the Atlantic Basin in recorded history. The second tropical cyclone, second hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 1935 Atlantic hurricane season, the Labor Day Hurricane was the first of three Category 5 hurricanes at landfall that the United States endured during the 20th Century (the other two being 1969's Hurricane Camille and 1992's Hurricane Andrew). After forming as a weak tropical storm east of the Bahamas on August 29, it slowly proceeded westward and became a hurricane on September 1. Northeast storm warnings[1] were ordered displayed Fort Pierce to Fort Myers in the September 1, 9:30 AM Weather Bureau advisory.[2] Upon receipt of this advisory the U. S. Coast Guard Station, Miami, FL, sent a plane along the coast to advise boaters and campers of the impending danger by dropping message blocks. A second flight was made Sunday afternoon. All planes were placed in the hangar and its door closed at 10:00 AM Monday morning.[3][4]

The 3:30 AM advisory, September 2 (Labor Day), predicted the disturbance "will probably pass through the Florida Straits Monday" and cautioned "against high tides and gales Florida Keys and ships in path."[5] The 1:30 PM advisory ordered hurricane warnings[1] for the Key West district[2] which extended north to Key Largo.[6] At around 2:00 PM, Fred Ghent, Assistant Administrator, Florida Emergency Relief Administration, requested a special train to evacuate the veterans work camps located in the upper keys.[7] It departed Miami at 4:25 PM; delayed by a draw bridge opening, obstructions across the track, poor visibility and the necessity to back the locomotive below Homestead (so it could head out on the return trip[8]) the train finally arrived at the Islamorada station on Upper Matecumbe Key at about 8:20 PM. This coincided with an abrupt wind shift from northeast (Florida Bay) to southeast (Atlantic Ocean) and the arrival on the coast of the storm tide.[9] Eleven cars[10] were swept from the tracks, leaving upright only the locomotive and tender. Remarkably, everyone on the train survived.[11] The eye of the storm passed a few miles to the southwest creating a calm of about 40 minutes duration over Lower Matecumbe and 55 minutes (9:20 - 10:15 PM) over Long Key. At Camp #3 on Lower Matecumbe the surge arrived near the end of the calm with the wind close behind.[12] On Long Key it struck about midway through the calm. The waters quickly receded after carving new channels connecting the bay with the ocean. But gale force winds and high seas persisted into Tuesday, preventing rescue efforts. The storm continued northwest along the Florida west coast, weakening before its second landfall near Cedar Key, Florida on September 4.

The compact and intense hurricane caused extreme damage in the upper Florida Keys, as a storm surge of approximately 18 to 20 feet (5.5–6 meters) swept over the low-lying islands. The hurricane's strong winds and the surge destroyed nearly all the structures between Tavernier and Marathon. The town of Islamorada was obliterated. Portions of the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway were severely damaged or destroyed.

 photo hurr35relieftrain1_zps1bmbvgha.jpg

When Hemingway Took the Government to Task for a Hurricane Disaster that Cost Hundreds of Lives, Melissah J. Pawlikowski, 9-26-05, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article...

Soon after the clouds had cleared, leaving a crystal blue horizon, the dead were counted. Between 400 and 600 people perished. What made this storm all the more tragic was that among the dead were 265 World War I veterans. At the height of the Great Depression these veterans had been sent to build a road on the low lying islands of the Florida Keys as a part of the Public Works for Veterans programs. While working, they were housed in inadequate tent-like structures provided by the Roosevelt administration. When the National Weather Bureau issued warnings for a hurricane they were not evacuated.

Shortly after the natural disaster had occurred, writer Ernest Hemingway was contacted by the editors of New Masses to write an account of the storm from an insider's perspective. Hemingway's response was the article, "Who Murdered the Vets?: A First-Hand Report on the Florida Hurricane," published September 17, 1935, just weeks after the event. Although billed as a personal account, in reality it was an outraged demand for accountability for the needless death of the veterans.

A hostile tone was established within the first few lines. "Whom did they annoy and to whom was their possible presences a political danger?" Hemingway asked. "Who sent them down to the Florida Keys and left them there in hurricane months?"

Hemingway presented the veterans not merely as murdered but almost as though they had been assassinated for someone's personal political gain or simply that they were disposed of as an unnecessary burden to the public after courageously serving their country.

Hemingway continued by pointing out that the men in charge certainly knew the possible consequences of being in Florida during hurricane season, let alone in insufficient shelter.

The writer of this article lives a long way from Washington and would not know the answers to those questions. But he does know that wealthy people, yachtsmen, fishermen such as President Hoover and Presidents Roosevelt, do not come to the Florida Keys in hurricane months.... There is a known danger to property. But veterans, especially the bonus-marching variety of veterans, are not property. They are only human beings; unsuccessful human beings, and all they have to lose is their lives. They are doing coolie labor for a top wage of $45 a month and they have been put down on the Florida Keys where they can't make trouble. It is hurricane months, sure, but if anything comes up, you can always evacuate them, can't you?
By making these statements Hemingway was not only making an argument that the government was ineffectual; he was also stating that class distinctions had played a major role in the disaster. Not only had the government failed to save its veterans, officials had felt the veterans were disposable. Hemingway went on to illustrate the experience common to most Floridians preparing for a coming hurricane in a pre NOAA, pre Weather Channel era. His account reinforced to non-coastal readers the reality of hurricanes with which coastal residents were familiar.

Hemingway's anger at what happened was palpable on every page:

It is not necessary to go into the deaths of the civilians and their families since they were on the Keys of their own free will; They made their living there, had property and knew the hazards involved. But the veterans had been sent there; they had no opportunity to leave, nor any protection against hurricanes; and they never had a chance for their lives. Who sent nearly a thousand war veterans, many of them husky, hard-working and simply out of luck, but many of them close to the border of pathological cases, to live in frame shacks on the Florida Keys in hurricane months?
After making the argument that the veterans had no business being sent to build a road on a narrow low-lying island during hurricane season, Hemingway turned to the aftermath of the storm.

The railroad embankment was gone and the men who had cowered behind it and finally, when the water came, clung to the rails, were all gone with it. You could find them face down and face up in the mangroves. The biggest bunch of the dead were in the tangled, always green but now brown, mangroves behind the tanks cars and the water towers. They hung on there, in shelter, until the wind and the rising water carried them away.
Hemingway's ability to ask questions while simultaneously and subtly pointing fingers throughout the article stimulated public discussion. Though Hemingway later refused to admit that he had purposely written the article to instigate political change, his account helped stimulate vigorous debate. The article in particular drew attention to the issue of class, raising awareness of inequities between the upper and lower classes.

Hemingway ended "Who Murdered the Vets?" with the final questions, "Who left you there? And what's the punishment for manslaughter now?" The first question was officially answered privately behind the closed doors of politicians. The second went unanswered. No person was ever formally charged with the neglect of the veterans. But one result of the tragedy was that the public began to demand that in the future government leaders had to be careful not to be careless with other peoples' lives.

Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,800 reviews487 followers
October 31, 2015
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life.

I really enjoyed this book! This isn't the kind of book that I pick up often but when I do I almost always enjoy myself. The title and description sparked my interest. This book sounded like it would be a quirky yet interesting story. By the end of the story, I had fallen in love with Albert and kind of wanted a pet alligator of my own (not really....I'll just stick with my 2 dogs and my cat for now).

This story was filled with lots of exciting adventures. Elsie and Homer's journey to carry Albert home was anything but boring. They spent time with all kinds of interesting people including Buddy Ebsen, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and a nameless rooster. This one trip would have given them more adventures than most people would have in a lifetime. As preposterous as most of the events may sound, each one seems completely reasonable within the confines of this story.

I liked Homer a lot from the very beginning of the story. He was just such a nice guy but I feared that he may be a little too nice for his own good. It took me some time to warm up to Elsie. She seemed a bit spoiled and seemed to be rather unkind to Homer. During the course of their journey things do change between the pair. They seem to really learn a lot about their own feelings and each other. Homer even learns that he does have a soft spot for Albert after all.

I loved the fact that this is a "somewhat true" story. Every family probably has their own compilation of stories that are told that may be based in truth but over time have developed into the somewhat true realm. I really enjoyed the parts of the story where we see Elsie and Homer telling their children about their journey to carry Albert home. I would hope that most people can relate to this kind of family history although I can't remember anything about alligators or movie stars in my own family's tales.

The writing in this book was well done. The pacing kept the story moving forward even though it seemed they could have driven to Florida several times by the middle of the book. Each event that occurred during their travels was exciting and really told a story within a story. I found myself grinning several time during the course of reading this novel.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a quirky story with a lot of excitement. I believe that this is the first book by Homer Hickman that I have read but I plan to check out some of his other works soon.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Harper Collins / William Morrow via Edelweiss for the purpose of providing an honest review.

Initial Thoughts
I really enjoyed this one. I loved Albert and kind of wish that I had a pet alligator....not really. The rooster, Hemingway, John Steinbeck and all of their adventures were so much fun.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,049 reviews2,391 followers
June 15, 2022
When you're reading a book that you're not enjoying, it's like a big, dark cloud is hovering over your head, sucking all the pleasure out of your world. The color drains out of everything, and life doesn't even seem worth living. And, sadly, for me - this book was a dark cloud.

Since at least three friends whose opinions I respect seem to have loved this one, I was really looking forward to the read, but I couldn't even make it to the halfway point. The thought of reading any more of this book depresses the hell out of me. The reason why is a little hard to pinpoint. Granted, this "somewhat true story of a man, his wife, and her alligator" is pretty far-fetched, but I've read and loved far-fetched before, so that was really not the problem. It was more like a dozen niggling little thorns that poked at my skin, and irritated the hell out of me: the two main characters were not only unlikable, but dull as all get out; the only black character in the book (at least as far as I read) just had to be a bank robber; all the food they brought for the journey gets stolen, and no one seems very concerned about it; I've never been a fan of fictional characters interacting with real people from history; AND, the deliberate "folksiness" of the writing, meant to charm, I'm sure, made me roll my eyes in annoyance.

All I know is when I volunteer to do the dishes rather than start another chapter, it's time to throw in the (dish) towel . . .

Ahhh! I feel better already. In fact, I think the sun is beginning to come out from behind the clouds.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,937 reviews798 followers
September 19, 2017

Vilken otroligt härlig bok! Från första sidan fastnade jag för denna bok och det var inte alls svårt att klämma den på två dagar. Berättelsen är besynnerlig, otroligt mysig men även lite sorglig. Jag måste erkänna att slutet var svårt att läsa för att jag verkligen hade blivit fäst vid Albert, Elsie, Homer och tuppen.

Kändes berättelsen lite väl fantastisk ibland? Javisst, men det är charmen med boken. Jag tyckte om att läsa om denna 1000 mila resa pga av att man både fick den nakna verkligheten av USA på 30-talet blandat med en knasig berättelse där både John Steinbeck och Ernest Hemingway gör inhopp.

Denna bok är en sådan bok som jag utan tvekan skulle rekommendera till någon som vill ha en kul bok, som gör en glad men som även visar på att livet inte alltid är en dans på rosor och ibland så måste man välja mellan två saker man verkligen älskar. Och i det här fallet står valet mellan en man och en alligator...

Tack till HarperCollins Nordic för recensionexemplaret!


What an amazing book! I loved the book from the first page and it wasn't at all hard reading it in two days. The story is quirky, incredibly cozy, but also a bit sad. I must admit that I found the ending a bit hard to read because I had become attached to Albert, Elise, Homer, and the rooster.

Did the book feel a bit too fantastic now and then? Oh yes, but that's the charming part of the book. I loved reading this 1000 mile long journey because you got both the naked truth about life in the 30s in the USA together with a weird story where both John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway show up.

I would without a doubt, recommend to someone who wants to read something fun, something that makes one happy, but at the same time show that life isn't always perfect and sometimes you have to choose between two things you love. And, in this case, the choice is between a husband and an alligator...

Thanks to HarperCollins Nordic for the review copy!
February 21, 2023
Look to the Rooster. I think if you react positively to the Rooster in this story, you will get the book; if not, Carrying Albert Home won't be your cup of tea.

I enjoyed the quirky, ever more outrageous adventures of Elsie, her long-suffering husband Homer, her pet alligator Albert, and the unnamed Rooster, on a road trip from Ohio to Florida during the Great Depression.

It could have been a 5-star read if it wasn't for the dreadful Elsie character. Since it was "based on" the author's own parents, I suspect he must have deep, unresolved mommy issues to portray her as such an unlikeable witch in this novel. The awkward dynamic between Homer and Elise detracted so much - and so unnecessarily - from the fun, whimsical stories, that I can't rate it higher than three stars.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews555 followers
June 6, 2016
DNF At page 106, I regretted buying a hardback copy of this, although most everyone else found it charming. For me, it was a cross between a Forrest Gump-ish couple and those John Bodette commercials for Motel 6: "we'll leave the light on for you."

This series of tall tales about a cross-country journey that the couple made in the 1930s was just so terribly far fetched and written at such a basic level that while I intended to read it along with my 13-year-old, I may give this to a fourth or fifth grade teacher to allow her students to borrow. Unfortunately, we live in Louisiana and even the 10-year-olds know that a 4 foot long alligator will not defend its owner from a lecherous radical, let alone roll over onto its back for belly rubs.

Yes, I get that the reader is supposed to suspend disbelief or whatever, but the couple meets John Steinbeck and suggests to him the title of his classic "The Grapes of Wrath?" No offense to those who were charmed, but this was too Gumpish for me. Lest you wonder how uptight my taste is, I utterly loved Fred Chapell's "I am One of You Forever" which is... you guessed it... a series of tall tales written about one particular family.

This just didn't do it for me.
Profile Image for Camie.
917 reviews193 followers
June 23, 2016
According to Homer Hickam Jr., he had some very interesting parents. In this book his mother Elsie is recalling stories from the past to her son , in particular a journey made by the young married couple who during the depression years left the coalfields of Alabama on an eventful journey to Orlando Florida. Seems Elsie had been given an Alligator by the name of Albert as a wedding gift from an old beau none other than Buddy Epsen to the dismay of her husband Homer Sr. who cares neither for the other man or his unusual present. When given the ultimatum of keeping around either the gator or him , it's decided ( eventually) that Albert must be carried home. And so the tales begin and it soon becomes apparent that Elsie is a storyteller who's not a bit afraid to wholeheartedly embellish them. Since I'm not much into silliness , I was surprised to enjoy this book more than I expected . My Grandfather was a teller of tales , many of them "whoppers " but nevertheless amusing. In fact as kids the more far fetched the story the better we liked it. This book has the old fashioned charm of the tall tales we used to enjoy being told back in the days where people actually spoke face to face. Storytelling like this is sort of a lost art, and that's a darn shame. 4 stars
Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
688 reviews
April 7, 2016
The captain, a huge man with ears like an African elephant, looked up and frowned. “What the devil is it, son?”
“It’s my wife, Captain.”
“Elsie? What’s wrong with Elsie?”
“She wants me to take her and her alligator to Orlando.”
The Captain sat back and considered Homer. “Does this have anything to do with you running around your yard without your pants?”
“Yes sir, it does.”
The Captain cocked his head. “Okay son, I’m always up for a good story and I sense this might be a good one.”

And so begins a true (well, somewhat true) gem of a book, the latest adventure by Rocket Boys author Homer Hickam, who has recently come out with Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator. It’s a madcap adventure with a dash of romance starring a remarkably mismatched couple; Hickam’s parents.

When faced with the age-old ultimatum “Either that alligator goes or I do,” Elsie Lavender Hickam gives her husband, Homer, the elder Hickam, a perfectly reasonable answer. “I’ll think it over.”

A few days later Homer, Elsie, Albert the Alligator, and a rooster who shall remain nameless, embark on an epic journey from the coal fields of West Virginia to the Florida Keys. It is a remarkable tale, patched together by Homer (the younger) from years of conversations with both of his parents. Their rollicking road trip includes encounters with bank robbers, famous authors, radical labor unionists, moonshiners, and baseball players; and that’s just the first hundred pages. To describe all of their adventures would take all night and deprive the reader of the opportunity to discover them for themselves.

But it is more than just a madcap comedy. It is also a journey of discovery by two people whose hopes and dreams are far different. Admittedly, we know that they will resolve their differences else there would be no Homer Hickam Jr. to write down their adventures, but still, it is fun to learn how it comes about.

Bottom line: After reading Faulkner and O’Connor, McCullers and Caldwell, it is almost a relief to come across a southern author with a true sense of whimsy. P.G. Wodehouse, move over.

*Quotations are cited from an advanced reading copy and may not be the same as appears in the final published edition. The review was based on an advanced reading copy obtained at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. While this does take any ‘not worth what I paid for it’ statements out of my review, it otherwise has no impact on the content of my review.

FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
*4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.
*3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.
*2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending.
*1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.
Profile Image for Angie Rhodes.
765 reviews22 followers
September 29, 2015
Wow!! Just feeling sad, now I have finished reading about Albert,
This was one of the most uplifting , fun books I have read for a long long time,
It reminds me of the adventure stories, I read as a child,, Loved it,, Worth buying? YES! Worth reading ad then re reading?YES!! A book for everyone, no matter what sex or age? YES!!
Profile Image for Vasco Simões.
200 reviews24 followers
September 19, 2016
Tão bom! Amei! Este é um dos livros do ano para mim. Quis o Kismet (destino) que olhasse para a capa deste livro e fosse imediatamente atraído para ele. Um caimão na traseira de um carro??? Ao ler a sinopse fiquei intrigado e cheio de vontade de lê-lo. E não é que superou todas as expectativas. O autor conta a história verdadeira (com alguns episódios fabulados) dos pais que na década de 1930 atravessaram o país de Coalwood na Virginia Ocidental até Orlando na Flórida num buick para darem um novo lar ao caimão, Albert, (que deve ter sido um cão noutra vida) que lhes tinha sido dado como prenda de noivado (e não esquecer o galo). Pelo caminho vivem aventuras divertidas e conhecem personagens interessantes. Encontram sindicalistas em greve numa fábrica de meias, fogem de assaltantes de um banco, participam em fugas à policia na rota do trafico de álcool, herdam e deserdam um clube de beisebol e uma fortuna, andam perdidos no mar, voam num avião, entram na rodagem de um filme, sobrevivem a um furacão e pelo meio conhecem muitas personagens vividas e curiosas nas quais se destacam os escritores Steinbeck e Hemingway. Uma viagem onde se encontra também o amor. Um romance “real” cheio de aventuras a fazer lembrar Forrest Gump, Onde Estás Irmão, A Vida de Walter Mitty, Big Fish…e acima de tudo um tributo lindo de um filho à vida dos pais.
Profile Image for Sandra.
195 reviews85 followers
March 8, 2016

“It’s hard to fight a dream,” Homer answered. “And maybe harder to lose one.”

Two words that don't seem natural to go together, alligator and pet. At least, not in my world! Yet, this somewhat true story (according to Homer Hickam) is his quirky and humourous family legend in which his mother Elsie returns her pet alligator Albert to its home ground in Florida. Tagging along are his father Homer and a rooster, which shall remain nameless throughout the story. They encounter a few notable figures like John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, end up in a bank robbery and even star in a movie during their trip through several states.
“It seems anytime I am close to happiness, it is snatched away from me."

His mother seemed a bit hard on his father, slightly spoiled and demanding. Homer just wants to lead a simple life with his beautiful wife and steady job as a coalminer. I felt she treated him as if he would never be good enough for her, like she imagined her great love Buddy Ebsen would have been. Yes, the one and only. He was also the one who gifted Albert to the couple on their wedding day.
".. when loss wakes you up in the morning and puts you to sleep at night.” Her hazel eyes turned a bit misty. “You never get used to it.”

When finally having found Albert a new home, they are ready to start a new life together without him. Both their characters have developed over time. They have grown together. By the end of the adventure, Elsie seemed happier and more satisfied with the here and now instead of focusing on the past. Homer stands up more for himself and understands and accepts more of Elsie's quirks.

Hickam writes in a very engaging way. Even though you have to stretch your imagination a little bit at certain parts, it all felt exciting and adventurous and you'd wish you could tag along. Maybe take a swim together with Albert. Or maybe not.

This is one of those books you will remember for a long time.

Review copy supplied by publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a rating and/or review.
Profile Image for Melanie Schneider.
Author 20 books80 followers
May 27, 2019
Die 530 Seiten lassen sich schnell lesen 😅

Es ist zwar eine mehr oder weniger wahre Geschichte, die man interpretieren kann, wie man will, aber ich fühlte mich zu sehr an "Der Hundertjährige, der aus dem Fenster stieg und verschwand" erinnert. Im Vergleich dazu ist es jedoch bei Weitem nicht so gut. Es gab einige Szenen, die mir gefallen haben, aber im Großen und Ganzen ist es für mich ein nettes Buch, dass ich nicht gelesen hätte, wenn ich es nicht beim Buchwichteln erlangt hätte. Was keineswegs heißen soll, dass ich die Lesezeit als verschwendet erachte, ich bin jetzt aber, was solche Bücher angeht, wieder eine Weile gesättigt.
Profile Image for Briar's Reviews.
1,901 reviews517 followers
May 10, 2019
Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam is a seriously funny book that will take you on one wild adventure.

Books like these are always my favourites - they tell fun and inviting stories and welcome you into someone else's world. I also identify as an 'old soul' so I get a real kick out of reading books about the past. This book, Carrying Albert Home, is about Homer's parents taking a pet alligator back to Florida. Yes, you read that right, they are transporting an alligator. Along the way they get themselves in lots of trouble and difficult situations, all of which are hilarious!

This book did feel like it would fit into the niche market. It's a fictional comedy based on true stories that weren't exactly true... It's so weird, but lovely. If you're looking for a book that's out of the ordinary, I think this book would be one excellent fit!

To be honest though... this book isn't my type of novel. I did enjoy reading it as a change from my normal selection, but it just didn't hit me as well as I wanted it to. The book is long and at times feels like too much. I had to put it down and pick it up a few times to really get through the story. It's not boring and it's written in a beautiful manner, it's just not made for me as a reader. There will be readers out there who are dying to read this book, but it just isn't my style. My rating for this book reflects the fact that it wasn't a book for me. In reality, I think this book is a solid 4.0 for the average reader, but based on my rating score it's a 2.

Overall, if I had to describe this book in a series of words they would be: quirky, spontaneous, eccentric, outlandish and zany.

2.0 out of 5.0 stars - it's just not my type of book, but it is absolutely lovely and I highly recommend it.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,817 reviews343 followers
January 22, 2019
Subtitle: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator

Hickam grew up in Coalwood, West Virginia, where his father, Homer Sr, was foreman at the coal mine. Over the years his mother, Elsie, and father occasionally made reference to a trip they had taken during the Depression, when they were a young married couple but didn’t yet have children; it was to “carry Albert home,” Albert being his mother’s pet alligator. This book recounts some of those stories of the trip and their adventures on the road.

I loved listening to the stories my father, mother, aunts and uncles would tell of “the old days” and adventures they had had. Even just a few years before my father died, I was still surprised to learn things about his youth as he related a story of sheep-shearing in Montana. (My father was raised on a ranch on the Rio Grande in Texas.) So, I was predisposed to like this tale of the author’s parents and a great adventure they embarked upon without any plan other than to “carry Albert home.”

And they DID have adventures. If even half of the episodes are true, they met with famous authors, helped blow up a textile mill, foiled a bank robbery, got kidnapped by bootleggers, learned to run a boarding house, got conscripted into the Coast Guard (and then thrown overboard by smugglers), helped film a Hollywood movie, and survived a hurricane. Most importantly, they found one another on this road trip, and learned what was truly important in their lives.

I found it fun and enjoyable, but gosh, Elsie got on my nerves. I don’t know why Homer didn’t just leave her and Albert somewhere along the way and go find a woman who truly appreciated him.
Profile Image for Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine).
189 reviews230 followers
November 9, 2015
Many thanks to HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Who couldn't love a book about a coal miner, his want-to-be-anything-other-than-a-coal-miner's-wife wife, her pet alligator, and a gratuitous rooster? Whimsical beginning with the Table of Contents, Carrying Albert Home is the story of how Elsie and Homer's marriage is likely saved by a journey that turned out to be, well, kismet. Traveling through four states to return Albert the alligator (given to Elsie as a wedding present by her famous former boyfriend, Buddy Ebsen) back home to Orlando, the group have some pretty amazing adventures. Some are, shall we say, a stretch, but that's the point. I love that this book details the (well-embellished, I'm sure) tales told to the author by his parents about their 1935 road trip. While I found that a couple of chapters were a bit too long, I really liked this book and could certainly see it turned into some sort of theatrical or film production.

Profile Image for Jennifer Hughes.
853 reviews30 followers
October 21, 2015
As a fan of both the movie and book Rocket Boys, when I heard about this upcoming novel I had high hopes. The comparison in its description to Big Fish piqued my interest since that's one of my favorite books--a poignant story about a father's tales that grow taller and taller through memory, and a son's wish to know who his father truly is. It seemed there could be some similarities to "Albert," and I was really looking forward to reading it.

Unfortunately, while "Albert" had some of the same quirkiness and even poignancy, it lacked the charm of "Big Fish" and similar books. Our main characters are a newly married couple with a husband who is desperately in love with his wife and who goes through all kinds of heroics to save her and win her. The wife, however, is always pining for her old flame, (The) Buddy Ebsen, and constantly thinking about how she could leave her husband. She's cranky and unlikable.

We follow these characters on an epic road trip to return Elsie's pet alligator to Florida, and at each stop there is a tall tale of a situation (stumbling into a movie set and being used as doubles? going on adventures with John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway?) where Elsie gets into trouble and Homer rescues her (usually with the help of sidekick alligator Albert). As they continue their journey, Elsie ungratefully reflects on why she would be better off with Buddy Ebsen and wonders how she is going to ditch her husband when they arrive in Florida. The fun and adventure kept getting swallowed up by my sadness for these characters.

I kept wondering--what is real, a complete tall tale, and "somewhat true" in this book? I appreciate the intricacies of writing a biography of one's parents. I honor Homer Hickham's desire to capture his parents' stories and their personalities in this book. (I think he probably did capture their personalities and perhaps even their lifelong strained relationship.) I also recognize that history is not some hard-and-fast timeline but is as unique as the memory of each individual. That being said, I felt unfulfilled by this novel because I never overcame my disbelief of the many unlikely scenarios and borderline Herculean tasks experienced by Homer and Elise. I never was rooting for them to "get together," even though I knew that in reality they were married for many years until their eventual deaths, because they seemed like a sad couple, and Elsie especially didn't appear to deserve her husband's devotion and loyalty.

I notice that other reviewers would completely disagree and have given the book high reviews. (To be fair, one was a die-hard Nicholas Sparks fan, which I am not, so there's a fundamental difference right there.) Perhaps if I had gone into this book with different expectations I would have enjoyed it more, but "Albert" was sadly, overall, not a satisfying read for me.
Profile Image for Suzy.
793 reviews264 followers
May 8, 2016
4 1/2 stars

In the very best storytelling tradition -where with each telling the story becomes more fabulous, dramatic and fun- Homer Hickam tells the "somewhat true story" of how his parents Elsie and Homer carried a pet alligator from Coalwood, W. Virginia to Orlando Florida during the depression. I think I was especially delighted by Hickam's story because at first I kept wondering what the heck I was reading! Fable? Fairy tale? Allegory? Odyssey? But I was having so much fun with Elsie and Homer's adventures through North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, I decided to just go along for the ride. And quite a ride it is, confirming that the journey is always more important than the destination. Hickam spins his tale with so much affection, humor and insight that you can't help but be won over.

This is the group read for The Southern Literary Trail this month and the author has been gracious to chat with us, just adding to my already great enjoyment of Carrying Albert Home.

My one-word review: KISMET!

(oh . . . I almost forgot to mention that I listened to this, terrifically narrated by Adam Vemer, making it seem like I was sitting with Homer over a cup of coffee and he was telling his story just to me.)
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,103 reviews410 followers
October 9, 2015
Part Forrest Gump, tall tales, and history, this is the pieced together story of the author's parents and a wedding present from Buddy Ebsen, Albert. Told with humor and heart, the author puts together the epic family lore of the day Albert tore off Homer's pants while he sat doing his business and Homer's ultimatum to Elsie, "Him or Me." After days of deliberation Elsie makes her choice.

Crossing four state lines, stories are told of bank robbers, moonshine and Prohibition, Hooverville, the Great Depression, Stroop and the sock factory, the Labor Day Hurricane, and many more. How much did Homer, Elsie, Albert, and the nameless rooster really see and do first hand? It doesn't matter. I had a great time reading it.
Profile Image for Beth Mcintyre.
478 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2015
I won't give it justice, I'm sure...I keep thinking the one-word description is "adorable." Elsie has an alligator that Buddy Ebsen gave her as a wedding present. When Albert gets a little too big for his britches (actually, Elsie's husband Homer's) then Homer says "me or the alligator." They embark on a journey to Florida and have adventures along the way. It is written from their son's point of view, as told to him in bits and pieces by his parents. Is it all absolutely true? Maybe, maybe not. Simple, direct writing style, laugh-out-loud funny stuff. Readalike for Clyde Edgerton. Homer Hickam will be coming to Barrow County on October 17, 3pm, at Lanier Tech. Come join us!
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,505 reviews178 followers
August 8, 2016
“Elsie had always felt her life was like a jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the box to show her how the puzzle pieces should fit together”

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator is a book with a title that is certainly lengthy-yet-succinct and quite intriguing. This memoir by American author, Homer H. Hickam Jr. is his account of his parents, Elsie and Homer’s epic adventure with an alligator named Albert (and a rooster), in which (Hickam’s website tells us) everything is true, except the bits that are made up. Which is no doubt why the cover says “a novel”. Some say it could be considered a prequel to his Coalwood series.

An embarrassing incident with Albert leads Homer to issue Elsie with an ultimatum, "Me…or…that…alligator”. The decision is made to carry Albert home from Coalwood, West Virginia to Orlando, Florida. Albert travels in a quilt-lined bathtub on the back seat of Homer’s Buick. For no apparent reason, a russet-coloured rooster with green tail feathers decides, at the last minute, to join them. Homer takes two weeks’ leave from the mine, expecting to be back in Coalwood by then. But the trip does not go according to Homer’s plan.

When they finally reach Florida, they encounter Elsie’s former beau, singer and dancer, Buddy Ebsen, the man who was responsible for sending them the hatchling Albert as a wedding gift. Buddy apologises if Albert caused them any trouble. Homer, by this stage is quite angry: “Oh, no trouble at all. Your marvellous gift merely made us abandon our house, get caught up in a bank robbery, run illegal moonshine through North Carolina, get cast adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, act in a jungle movie, and get all but blown away in the Keys! No, sir. No trouble at all”. Their adventure has also included joining a bunch of radicals, flying a plane and meeting John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.

Underlying the crazy adventure with all its quirky characters is the love story between Elsie and Homer, which hits a few rough patches before a relatively happy ending. But the real star of the story is, of course, Albert (although the rooster does have a certain appeal). Funny and moving, this is a very enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,977 reviews53 followers
March 18, 2016
So what do you get when you have a newly married couple, an alligator, a chicken and a road trip....you get this book. This was so unreal and quirky. And I loved that the author John Steinbeck was written into this story. This book was very creative. The quirky characters went from one unreal scene to the next. It was kind of amusing. It did drag a bit in the first half but overall, this was a fun read.

This was written by Homer Hickam, who also wrote his memoir, Rocket Boys which was made into the movie October Sky. Even though this is fiction, he says that this is somewhat a prequel to 'The Rocket Boys' because it is about his parents.
Profile Image for Vivian.
Author 2 books137 followers
October 26, 2015
4.5-star read

Elsie Lavender Hickam received a rather unusual wedding gift from her previous fiance Buddy Ebsen, a baby alligator. Mrs. Hickam adored that alligator and lovingly raised it in the coalfields of West Virginia. When the alligator scared her husband out of the house without his pants, Elsie had to choose between her husband and the alligator. What ensues is the hilarious tale of Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam.

Imagine the late 1920s and a young woman, Elsie Lavender, raised in the coalfields of West Virginia is now living it up in a pre-Disney Orlando, Florida. She's attending secretarial school, working as a waitress, and enjoying the company of the up-and-coming actor/dancer Buddy Ebsen. Elsie and Buddy get engaged and then he receives a job opportunity in New York city and then California. Weeks and months go by without any correspondence from her fiance, so Elsie returns to rural West Virginia and her family. She receives an unusual marriage proposal from her future husband's boss, ponders the proposal, and subsequently marries the young man, Homer Hickam. After their marriage, she receives a belated wedding present from Buddy Ebsen, a baby alligator named Albert. When forced to choose between her husband and the alligator, she chooses her husband (somewhat reluctantly it appears) with the proviso that they must return Albert to Florida. Now if the picture of an alligator being raised in the coalfields of West Virginia in the 1930s wasn't strange enough, imagine this husband, wife and alligator on the road...oops, I almost forgot the rooster that decided to travel with them.

To give you an idea of just how hilarious the travel adventures of Elsie, Homer, and Albert were, you only have to look at some of the titles for sections of the book: How Elsie Became a Radical; How Elsie Rode the Thunder Road, Homer Wrote a Poem, and Albert Transcended Reality; How Albert Flew; How Homer and Elsie Saved a Movie and Albert Played a Crocodile; and, How Homer and Elsie Survived a Hurricane - A Real One as Well as the One in Their Hearts. Elsie and Homer have some amazing adventures on their quest to return Albert home, including foiling a bank robbery, meeting John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, participating in the illegal transportation of moonshine, and more. Elsie even becomes a millionaire for a few hours in North Carolina. The 1000 mile road trip this couple took provides some poignant and heart-touching moments along with some outrageously funny moments.

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator is much more than a story of returning an animal to its native habitat, it's about letting go of the past, overcoming jealousy, being happy with what you have (without giving up on your dreams), as well as finding and accepting love. Homer Hickam has taken the outlandish and fantastical tales about his parents' trip in the 1930s and made it into a fictionalized story that is a testament to fortitude and love. Carrying Albert Home was a fast-paced read for me and one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. (Adding to that enjoyment was the ability to see Mr. Hickam, the author, at the recent West Virginia Book Festival.) Don't put Carrying Albert Home on a TBR list, go out, grab a copy, and then sit down and read it...you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Suze.
1,878 reviews1,308 followers
June 29, 2016
Homer is a miner who’s married to Elsie, who is the woman for him. She doesn’t like his profession and wants a more exciting life. She used to have all that with a man called Buddy. He’s the one who sent them an alligator as a wedding present. The alligator’s name is Albert and Elsie’s very fond of him, but Albert can’t stay with them. He needs to be taken back to Orlando as that will be a more suitable place for him to live. Carrying Albert home means going on a road trip. Homer and Elsie are traveling through America by car and they meet all sorts of interesting and unique people.

Homer, Elsie, Albert and the rooster, who's also accompanying them, often find themselves in dire situations and they don't always come out unscathed either. The dynamics between Homer and Elsie are constantly shifting and it was interesting to see them interact together. Albert is an alligator who's also attached to people, the right kind mainly. I could easily picture him in his bathtub and his behavior often made me laugh.

I enjoyed reading this book so much because of the originality of the story, it's certainly special and everything about the idea works. Homer and Elsie make an unusual couple. Homer is happy with his existence, but Elsie is not. They’re both resourceful which is something they need as they find themselves in all kinds of situations on the road. It was so much fun to read about their meetings with famous and not so famous people, the jobs they kept finding by accident and the chaotic messes they had to find a way out of. Of course they always had to take care of Albert and his companion, the rooster. I loved the irony of it all and read this whole book with a big smile on my face.

For me Carrying Albert Home is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Homer Hickam has a wonderful warm writing style. His sentences are beautiful and his colorful imaginative descriptions make this story come to life very well. I enjoyed this adventurous story so much that I didn’t want it to end at all. I could have kept on reading and will definitely read it again. I highly recommend this fantastic book, it's a real treasure.
Profile Image for Sharon Chance.
Author 5 books43 followers
October 16, 2015
I'm going to go out on a limb here and proclaim two things!

1. I am pretty positive that "Carrying Albert Home" is The Best Book I have had the pleasure of reading this year. It will be my unequivocal number one book of 2015!

and ...

2. I declare that Homer Hickman is one of the best writers of our times. His way with words grab you by the collar and pulls you into his delightful world of fun and mayhem and you are all the better for it at the end of the ride. I rank him right up there with fellow Southern authors Pat Conroy and Rick Bragg.

Oh my goodness, this was a great read! Full of quirky, unique and endearing characters, full of fun and action, and full of great family drama and lots and lots of humor! Hickman spins this story of his mother and father's epic journey to take the family pet alligator back to Florida and along the way the two meet up with some of the best adventures, although they might not have seemed too great at the time.

Set during the 1930s, Elsie, Hickman's mother, has a penchant for getting her and her husband Homer into the oddest situations - breaking up a "Communist" mill strike with John Steinbeck in North Carolina and becoming a baseball sensation and a millionaire for a minute in South Carolina are just a sampling of the couple's adventures as they travel from the West Virginia coal fields to the beaches of Orlando, Florida - just to take Elsie's beloved pet alligator Albert (a wedding present from actor Buddy Ebsen) back to his home.

This is a novel that you want to take your time and savor each and every charming moment of pure reading pleasure. I am absolutely honored to have been asked to review this book and I cannot highly recommend it enough! Go Get This Book!!! You'll be glad you did!
Profile Image for Jules.
1,049 reviews198 followers
October 13, 2015
Carrying Albert Home is an endearing tale of love, hopes and dreams, desire for adventure, and challenges along the way.

It is funny, quirky, slightly unbelievable yet at the same time surprisingly convincing, and not forgetting, it also has a cute pet alligator called Albert, and a random rooster whose presence on the journey is not entirely understood. What's not to love about this book?

If you enjoyed the film Big Fish, like I did, then this is a must read. I watched it many years ago, but this book really reminded me of Big Fish. This story made me laugh and also made me cry real tears.

When I saw that a friend was reading Carrying Albert Home, I was very intrigued. I was so sure I wouldn’t be able to find anything cute about an alligator, but I was wrong. In fact, over the last couple of days since finishing this book, I’ve found Albert sneaking into my home. I’ve imagined him on the dog bed, in the bath, his cute smile and happy "yeah, yeah, yeah" sound, and even being taken for a walk with my dogs.

Something about Albert the alligator has touched my heart, and I dare say he will touch many more hearts, as he takes you on his journey home.

I would like to thank the publisher, HarperCollins UK for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,802 reviews2,385 followers
February 19, 2016
Homer Hickam, the author of Rocket Boys (aka October Sky among others,) has written this somewhat fictionalized memoir in “Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator.” This is a charming story of his father, Homer Hickam, Sr., and his mother, Elsie Lavender Hickam, and their journey from Coalwood, West Virginia to Florida with one alligator named Albert, and a rooster. Along for the tale is a cast of characters that include Elsie’s former beau Buddy Ebsen, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, bank robbers, bootleggers, movie stars and others of questionable character.

There are lots of laughs, and lots of love on this ride. Homer loves Elsie and would do just about anything for her, he believes, and Elsie certainly will test that. Elsie loves Albert and would do just about anything for him, not exactly the same but if you’re Elsie then being logical isn’t really something she’s all that concerned with.

It is one escapade after another and you’re along for the ride as Homer drives Elsie, Albert and a rooster to their destinations appointed by kismet.
Profile Image for Diane Yannick.
569 reviews765 followers
November 6, 2015
This is the craziest book ever and I just loved it. It requires a suspension of disbelief and a willingness to embrace the genre of --a somewhat true story. Based on his parents experiences, Hickman embellishes with gusto. Albert is an alligator who goes cross country with Elsie and Homer. (Man, this review is not going to do this book justice.) There are bank robberies, Tarzan movies, hurricanes, visits with Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. Parts are laugh out loud funny, parts are utterly ridiculous, parts are touching and sweet. There's a lot about love but it's up to you what message you want to take away. Oh heck, just read it.

I'm choosing this for one of our 2016 book club selections. My ladies are either going to love it or hate it. I will guarantee them that it is unlike anything we've ever read and sometimes different is appealing. Then again, it might be a little Walter Mitty-esque.
297 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2017
I enjoyed this novel which, supposedly, was based on or inspired by true events in the author's parents' lives. It's a rollicking road tale which spans the states from West Virginia south to Florida, and is set during the Depression, complete with bootleggers, strikers, and camps of homeless families. Even John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway make appearances. A fun read.
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