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Posted June 15, 2011
I just finished James Randall Chumbley's latest book, "Alabama Snow". It was incredibly moving and powerful in so many areas. I found myself in tears several places throughout the story. The way the author is able to open up and reveal his most private moments and deepest feelings is a true gift. It must have been painful and frightening to expose oneself like that, but as a reader, I am grateful. I learned a lot from this book. I learned that family (no matter how far we run from the crazy things they do) have helped to shape us in ways we don't even realize. I learned to look at everyone a little differently because everyone has a story and part of that story may be tragic but everyone wants their story heard and they want to be loved for the truth that resides in it. I have read all of Mr. Chumbley's books (I even got the sneak peek at the 2nd one) but this one is so tender and poignant. I am sure his mother would be proud and honored. It is his finest novel yet. I am thankful that James Randall Chumbley is still with us to continue sharing his gifts with the world!!! "If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: 'I am here to live out loud.'" - Emile Zola Keep living out loud, Randy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2010
In "Alabama Snow," Randy Chumbley's imagery is masterful; walk with him down memory lane as he shares his family's joys, challenges and heartbreaks. Watch how Hope struggles to survive through a life tainted by alcoholism, mental illness and suicide; and witness the author's emergence, as both an artist and as a gay man. He clings to, yet grows from, traditional Southern values and the love he has known. He made me laugh out loud, and he made my eyes well with his pain. I believe anyone with 'family baggage' will relate to this story, and you will be moved, walking through "Alabama Snow."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2010
Alabama Snow is one of the BEST books I have ever read! The story comes from the heart as Chumbley takes you to a place and time not so long ago, yet a lifetime has passed. His words are so eloquently written that you feel as though you have stepped into a time traveler and are right in the midst of the story itself. This author has created a bridge to the past that is representational of great authors before him. He leads you through tragedy and triumph in this story of souls, both his and his characters. You will experience depression, anger, empathy, and even triumph as you walk the landscape of his past in Alabama. Alabama Snow is one that I could not put down, but I made myself stop at intervals to allow the feelings to sink in. I did not want it to end. I read is slowly, digesting every word on the page. Alabama Snow in one that I shall read again and again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2010
In his third book, Alabama Snow, James Randall (Randy) Chumbley faces down the most formidable opus any son can tackle: the biography of his late mother, Mary Ellen Rushing Chumbley. And as Pat Conroy's testified in his 1995 autobiographical novel, Beach Music, the sheer possibility of delving into such a profoundly tender, yet inevitably suffocating, subject matter can only be contemplated through the rear-view mirror of history and the prism of death. Accordingly, the love story that unfolds between the author and his mother is one of complex dimensions. Yet to dismiss the exercise to Oedipus redux sells it far short.
It has been said that the central obstacle to any gay man's adulthood is the calculus of the proper distance between himself and his mother. For that, Chumbley takes the reader on an unvarnished off-the-road trip through the worst figments of the challenge. While neither prequel nor sequel, Alabama Snow deftly dovetails with his first book, In the Arms of Adam, filling the mortar joints of detail that cemented his mother to a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams - and simultaneously chartered his own destiny. The take-home message, while subtly layered, is that a dysfunctional family is a collision on a freeway: while the parents' deaths may take away the physical animus, the children's lives inevitably career down a road mapped in their formative psyche. And of course, an unambiguous theme is that the famously politicized "traditional family," trotted out to drive a wedge between gays and straights, bears utterly no inherent superiority. Indeed it can also be a hotbed of trauma and torturous abuse.
The author's father, charitably portrayed as a violent, bullying, alcoholic bastard, is the antagonist who ultimately self-immolates in a spectacularly atrocious suicide for which the author quite literally has to mop up. His mother, like too many battered women, saddled with young children they are desperate to sustain and without gainful career credentials, inexorably succumbs to a life of zombie-like endurance, in the iconic Faulknerian vein. The only respite to her alcohol- and tobacco-numbed existence are periodic inductions into the Georgia state insane asylum, where she undergoes the mid-century avatar of medieval torture - electroconvulsive shock therapy. Yet the author and his two siblings manage to physically survive to adulthood; psychologically is another story indeed.
The antimatter to Mary Ellen's story is, of course, the author's parallel journey through the "valley of the shadow of death." Plagued with self-esteem and identity issues - like all gay men - Chumbley chronicles his mid-life infatuation with a young man half his age and the inevitable crack-up that plunges him into near suicidal despair.
Alabama Snow is a fine read that I predict will become a mainstay in the library of those who must come to terms with the complex theme of their own adulthood as a matrix of their own upbringing. While the author's sexuality is inconsequential in the context of his message, it is, however, ultimately informative to the gay reader who inevitably measures his or her life in arrears - based on the compensatory measures required to attain social and psychological parity. For that, it is an especially important contribution to that genre. Apart from that, Alabama Snow follows the unimpeded tradition of vernacular Southern authors who have their fingers on the pulse of Americana like no others
Posted November 30, 2009
Posted November 30, 2009
I was taken by surprise by the range of emotions this book left me with. It amazes me how this author was able to write so freely about his pain concering his Mother's life, his relationship with her and the betrayal of a man; it is obvious, he dearly loves. This book made me feel a little better about my own life. I hope he finds some happeneniss in his life. I cried for him several times while reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2009
This book is an honest, yet loving tribute from a son to his mother. Alabama Snow is the story of Mary Rushton Chumbley, a woman who traveled a painful path in her life.
The son, author James Randall Chumbley, is a gifted writer and talented artist. Perhaps that's the reason why his words paint such incredible mental pictures, drawing the reader into the moment.
Readers are able to visualize, and to feel this story. Chumbley reaches into the depths of his family dynamic and pulls out his" DNA demons" with amazing courage. No pity party about family dysfunction, mental illness, sexuality, Alabama Snow is about the direction we have taken in our lives. It's about death, yet it teaches us so much about love and life.