Author: Mark Childress
Publisher: Little, Brown
Price: $ 24.99 (cloth)
02/28/2011 Mark Childress has become a truly professional, productive novelist. "Georgia Bottoms" is his sixth novel, the first being "A World Made of Fire" in 1984.
Childress is what one might call a "high concept" novelist. Many of his books have a fairly extravagant device, sometimes fully in the area of magical realism, that serves as the spine of the story. We all remember the talking severed head in the Tupperware lettuce keeper in "Crazy in Alabama." In "Gone for Good,"
Childress sets the story on an uncharted island off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, I presume somewhere near the island containing Jurassic Park. The hero rock star "Superman" Willis crashes his plane there and awakens to find that Marilyn Monroe is his nurse. Amelia Earhart and Elvis and others live on this island too. They had gotten fed up with publicity, faked their deaths, and moved into tropical seclusion.
Childress is a wickedly clever and humorous fiction writer, and this novel is a delight.
In this novel, the heroine, Georgia Bottoms ––her mother had changed the family name from Butts–has a secret. Georgia lives in little Six Points, Alabama, a fictional town near Elba and Enterprise. The time is the late 90s. Georgia is 34 when the novel opens, slim, gorgeous, smart, well-groomed and well-dressed, single, and very sexy.
The Butts/ Bottoms family was once prosperous and although Georgia has no job, no obvious means of support, she gets by. Townspeople assume there is a small pot of family money left.
We learn early on that Georgia has a little apartment above the garage. In that apartment is a big bed and a highboy with seven drawers, all locked. Georgia secretly has six lovers—all married. One day of each week she entertains, respectively, the town's doctor, lawyer, banker, judge, newspaper editor, and, on Saturday night, to gain inspiration for his Sunday morning sermon, the Baptist preacher. Every seventh day, Georgia rests.
Each of the men believes he is Georgia's one and only love and each leaves her a totally voluntary little cash gift before departing, just to help with expenses. None of these men would dream of visiting a prostitute.
The highboy with the drawers, by the way, contains the various costumes and toys that the judge, banker, etc., each favor during their weekly visits.
Georgia is also something of an actress. "It took a special kind of woman to slip out of her own skin into a man's fantasy, night after night without losing track of who she was."
Well. Readers of novels know what must happen.
A set-up like this one is precarious, vulnerable to many dangers. Will someone else find out? Will one of the men find about the others? Nearly as dangerous, from Georgia's point of view, will one of these men fall in love with her and want to leave his wife to be with her until death does them part?
In fact, Georgia feels "she had rescued more than one marriage in Six Points, she knew that." The men say so. She makes them content, so that they behave decently towards their wives and do not run off the rails with crazy behavior, unsavory affairs and desertion.
Readers may not adopt Georgia's position 100 percent, but Childress is story-telling, not offering a self-help manual.
Besides her six "clients" Georgia has other secrets which will be exposed to public view as the novel progresses. So do several other folks in Six Points. In the Alabama novels of Mark Childress, as in those of his friend Fannie Flagg, very little—including a person's public sexual orientation—is exactly what it seems.