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Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True…

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

by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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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 amazingly 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!

4.5 stars ( )
  MaraBlaise | Apr 14, 2017 |
Faced with the ultimatum to choose between her husband and her growing alligator, Albert, Elsie Hickam chooses her husband on the condition they take Albert home to Florida. Thus begins the tale of an epic road trip, based on real events, but grown into tall tales by the author’s parents as they told the tales to him over the years. Adventure, humour, danger; everything is here as the three main characters—two humans and a reptile—are joined in their journey early on by a rooster, for a while by author John Steinbeck, and a host of characters, some honest, some nefarious, some rather odd.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Homer Hickam, and I’m grateful to the group that had an author discussion with him that prompted me to read it, to whomever came up with such a winning title that kept me interested in starting it despite delays on my part, as well as the good writing. This may not have been one of those rare five star books for me, but it is a very strong 4 stars. I have another book of Hickam’s here now, waiting to be read. ( )
  Karin7 | Jun 13, 2016 |
The author insists that this is a biographical novel about his parents, Homer Sr. and Elsie, who made a car trip in 1935 from their home in Coalwood, West Virginia, to Orlando, Florida, to find a suitable wild habitat for Albert, the alligator Elsie’s former Floridian beau Buddy Ebsen had given them as a wedding present. It reads like a picaresque novel in which Elsie and Homer unwittingly fall from one adventure into another, which expose them to all the prominent aspects of southern American life at the time (although not necessarily just Southern or just of that time): a shanty-town of people dispossessed by the Great Depression, union organizers who’re trying to improve the working conditions of the workers at a local sock factory, bank robbery, commercial fishing, smuggling, the coast guard, professional baseball, movie-making, murderers, railroad construction in the Keys, and a hurricane. They also meet John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Buddy Ebsen on their travels.

I’m not sure how much of it is true. Buddy Ebsen was a real dancer/actor, and Elsie Lavender, later Hickam, did make a trip to Florida at the time he lived there, staying with her rich, at least by her standards, uncle. Everything else may well be fiction. The author says his mother had pictures of her pet fox and pet squirrel, but none of her pet alligator whom she loved like a son. There are pictures of a small artificial pond near the house in Coalwood where they used to live, but I think there’s a strong possibility that Elsie’s father built the pool for his grandsons rather than an alligator. There is also a bunch of photographs of Elsie in Florida, but always alone or with her uncle, not a single one with her husband or with Buddy Ebsen, either in 1928 or in 1935, despite the fact that the author claims his parents had a camera with them on their trip. All of this makes me highly suspicious that this is a historical novel which masquerades as a biographical novel. The author himself writes: "Carrying Albert Home is a family epic, which means it's a blend of fact and fiction, evolved from stories told by my parents, both of whom were West Virginians and knew how to make their tales tall as the hills that surrounded them on all sides." Perhaps, the author’s parents made up stories about Albert the alligator to entertain their kids when they were little, and long after the author grew up, he re-dressed these stories for an adult audience, fleshing them out with historical episodes, meetings with famous writers of the time who were connected to the place or the era, and introducing tension and psychological complexity to his parents’ relationship.

The latter is a somewhat surprising element of the novel, considering that the author wrote it about his own parents, or at least pretended to. According to the novel, Elsie didn’t get over Buddy who was very charming and with whom she always had fun in her carefree days in Florida, and her husband was forever trying to win her affection, to no avail, even when he risks his life to save her alligator. It is only when the couple make it to a movie-making set, and Elsie sees that other women there find her husband attractive that she changes her plan to ditch him as soon as he gets her to Florida. I suppose the author didn’t realize that he’d made his mother appear very shallow and self-centered, for everybody the couple meets in the novel is enraptured with her and says how special she is, because she’s very good-looking and likes to try new things. But as a reader, I didn’t find it sufficient to warm up to her. However, despite disliking one of the two main characters, I enjoyed the book as a whole for its wide panorama of the southern American life in 1935, for its fast-paced plot, and for Albert – an alligator who made happy yeah-yeah-yeah sounds when pleased and flopped on the ground for belly rubs, while wearing a toothy grin.
  Ella_Jill | Jun 1, 2016 |
Quirky and sweet at times but my enjoyment of the story is coloured by my dislike of the main female character. She reminded me too much of a best friend I had broken up with. I couldn't understand the fascination with her. Way too self involved and vain. Unfortunately, it really affected my enjoyment of the story. I loved the Alligator and the rooster though and some of the situations were quite delightful. Will appeal to those who enjoyed The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and Forrest Gump. Will keep it and re read in a couple of years and see if I enjoy it more. Have heard others have really enjoyed, so please keep that in mind. I however review my books based on MY enjoyment of the story, not the quality of the writing. The writing is fantastic and the author tells a tale beautifully. Just a wee bit sensitive about vain self involved girls these days. But again I loved the frickin Alligator. And the story kept me reading even-though I seriously disliked the Mom ( )
  mountie9 | Apr 10, 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. ( )
  Unkletom | Apr 6, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Homer H. Hickam, Jr.primary authorall editionscalculated
Kuhn, WibkeÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Frank Weimann, who understood this story before I did
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Until my mother told me about Albert, I never knew she and my father had undertaken an adventurous and dangerous journey to carry him home.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062325892, Hardcover)

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 New York Times bestselling 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 1,000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 04 Jul 2015 17:13:58 -0400)

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