Changing literary latitudes’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The long warm days of June are unfolding rapidly. The

month came in on a wave of heat, which shows little promise of relenting and once again, the question arises:

&8220;What shall we do this summer?&8221; Some members of the generation of so-called &8220;older Americans&8221; have found an answer.

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Each morning, Monday through Friday, finds them in the cooling waters of a near-by pool where an instructor, who is a member of the considerably younger generation, leads them in water aerobic exercises. The benefit to each person physically is highly satisfactory, and the accompanying self-righteous feeling is immeasurable.

Exercise for the day finished? What comes next?

There is little more enjoyable than stretching out in a hammock in the cooling shade of the side yard trees, or if one prefers, lounging on the screened porch beneath a ceiling fan while delving into a stack of what is known as &8220;summer reading.&8221; That phrase, of course, means &8220;Light and easy.&8221;

Having just completed three books from this category, I am searching for more of the same at a favorite summer place, the Public Library. Now let me acquaint you with these three, each a little different, each a great read.

The Same Sweet Girls

By Cassandra King

Cassandra King, the wife of well-known author Patrick Conroy, has written my favorite of the books being reviewed today. Perhaps a quote from popular writer Anne Rivers Siddons explains the popularity of this delightful book. Siddons comments:

None of the Same Sweet Girls are really girls anymore and none of them have actually ever been that sweet. This is the story of a group of six southern women who have been holding biannual reunions ever since they were together in college. Although in the book, King refers to their college as &8220;The W,&8221; in reality it is the University of Montevallo, easily recognized by those of us who went to school there.

She opens the book with an Acknowledgment: &8220;First, a disclaimer. There is a real group, the Same Sweet Girls, but none of us would ever carry on like the shameless hussies in this book. We are really, truly sweet. All of us were exemplary students at Alabama College

(now University of Montevallo), where we were shining models of southern womanhood.&8221;

Descriptions of their reunions every summer and in the mountains every fall are heart touching and humorous and a lesson in the way close friends can help each other through life events. Reading it will inspire women to cherish their own lifelong friendships.

Gods in Alabama

By Joshilyn Jackson

Cassandra King, author of &8220;The Same Sweet Girls&8221; praised this outstanding novel on the jacket, saying &8220;Read the startling first sentence of gods in Alabama, then try to put it down.&8221; I could not until I had finished it.

Jackson’s opening sentence grabs your attention, clutches at your heart and in brief, summarizes what is to come.

That is Arlene Fleet speaking. When she heads up north from her hometown of Possett, Alabama, she makes three promises to God: She will stop fornicating with every boy who crosses her path; never tell another lie; and never, ever go back to the &8220;fourth rack of hell,&8221; her hometown.

Ten years later, God has broken His end of the deal. Alabama lands on her Chicago doorstep in the form of her high school archenemy. Arlene’s African American boyfriend has given her an ultimatum &045; in-

See Books, B2