Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where's Albert? Amazing Contest - Excerpt & Book Review


Carrying Albert Home is one of my all time favorite books. It's a wonderful story about a man and a woman who are going on a road trip together with their alligator Albert to take him back to a place where he can grow up freely.

The blog tour will be 5 bloggers, 5 days, 5 extracts and all linked to a daily Twitter competition asking #WheresAlbert?

The @W6BookCafe is running the competitions from their twitter account. From the extracts you can find out where Albert is on each day of the tour. If you've guessed correctly you have a chance to win amazing prizes.

Amazon USA Amazon UK

Review by Suze

 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.
 
 
Excerpt

captain oscar’s boarding house, which sat beside an ocean sound, was surrounded by pin oaks dripping with Spanish moss. It was a lovely old manse built of cedar planks weathered gray, with a roof covered with slate shingles, and a front porch boasting a swing and a dozen rocking chairs. The front yard consisted of sand, saw grass, and sea oats and abutted a well-maintained wooden dock with iron cleats for the one boat that was most often moored there, a fishing trawler named the Dorothy Howard. The Dorothy, as she was affectionately known, was a working boat and fair sailer although not one you’d want to broach up too far in a steep sea and stiff wind. Captain Bob, her skip- per, knew all her idiosyncrasies and tricks and treated her like he would treat a generous great-aunt, which is to say with deference and respect.

The boardinghouse required help, and a sign to that effect greeted Elsie on the morning of her arrival. She straightened her shoulders, fluffed up her hair, smoothed her skirt, and knocked on the door. A man dressed in the formal clothing of a sea captain, that is to say a navy blue

coat, matching pants, and a white-brimmed cap, came to the door.

Elsie pointed at the sign. “Whatever you might need,” she said, “I can

provide if the pay is suitable.”

The man leaned on his cane and stumped out on the porch, there to observe the Buick. Homer was resting, his eyes closed, on the passenger side, and Albert was looking with eager interest through the open win- dow on the same side. The rooster stood on the alligator’s head. “Quite a menagerie you got there.”

“It is, sir, and I’m responsible for the lot. My husband’s hand is crushed and his wrist is broken but he’s not applying for this job. I am.”

“Why do you have an alligator?”

“We hail from the West Virginia coalfields, an unsuitable place for an alligator, or anyone for that matter. I am therefore carrying him home to Florida. He was a gift to me from Buddy Ebsen of Orlando, the movie actor and dancer.”

“I saw a movie once in Chicago,” the man said, wistfully. “It was si- lent although there was a piano player on the stage.” He approached the Buick and inspected Homer. “He is sweating and his face is pale. I think he is very sick.”

“His hand is infected,” Elsie explained. “I know that because I was once a nurse.”

The man yelled, “Hey, Bob, get up here!” and a bearded young man, dressed in working khakis and a seaman’s cap, walked up from the dock. “Fetch us the sawbones, Bob. And toot sweet, you hear? This young man may be dying.”

“Who do we have here, pops?”

“Never mind that now. Take Wilma and be off with you!”

“Bob” tipped his hat to Elsie, went into a shed, and came back out riding a brown mare. He proceeded to clip-clop up the road Elsie hadblundered down the night before. “That’s Captain Bob, my son,” the

man said. “I shall introduce you to him at length but first things first. I am Captain Oscar, the owner of this establishment. Now, let’s see to your husband.”

Elsie and Captain Oscar helped Homer inside and laid him on a couch in the parlor. “Tell me how you feel, Homer,” Elsie said in a cold voice. She felt no sympathy toward him, only responsibility.

Homer didn’t reply. He didn’t even moan. He only looked at her with glassy, uncomprehending eyes.

“How did he hurt himself?” Captain Oscar asked.

“He was struck with a baseball bat,” Elsie answered, “and life. They don’t always go together but this time they did.”

An hour later, the doctor arrived in a chuggy old Ford and went in- side to see his patient. After his examination, he asked, “Who speaks for this man?”

“I do, sir,” Elsie said. “He is my husband.”

“His hand and wrist are terribly infected and the infection has reached into his arm. If there is no improvement by tomorrow, I will have to take it off.” The doctor handed her a bottle. “These are aspirin. Every three hours, give him two. They will lower his temperature. The infection he’ll have to fight off on his own.”

“He is a coal miner,” Elsie said, her pride overcoming for the moment her anger, “and therefore strong.”

“Bacteria has a way of taking down the strongest of men,” the doctor said as he strapped his black bag shut. “But on the morrow, we shall see what we shall see.”

Homer was moved to a downstairs bedroom, the second on the left, and then Captain Oscar, who was one of those men of indeterminate age



who might be anywhere between seventy and ninety, bade Elsie sit with him in the parlor for a while. “You wish for a job,” he said. “I have an opening. It is a maid’s job.”

“I can be a maid,” Elsie said. “I have always wanted to be a maid.” “And it is a cook’s job.”

“I can be a cook,” Elsie said. “I have always wanted to be a cook.” “And it is a manager’s job.” He waved his hand to indicate the dusty

parlor and its somewhat mildewed furniture. “My wife ran this place until she died and then my daughter Grace took over until she came down with the tuberculosis. Now it has fallen into the general state of disrepair you presently observe. Would you be willing to be the maid, the cook, and the manager of my boardinghouse? I cannot pay you other than room and board until we become more prosperous but then I will give you a percentage of the net, to be negotiated later. What do you say?”

“I have always wanted to be the manager of a boardinghouse,” Elsie swore and stuck out her hand. Captain Oscar shook her hand and Elsie became the maid, cook, and manager of Captain Oscar’s Boarding House, an establishment dedicated to clean rooms and fine food, espe- cially if it was fish.

The next day, the doctor returned as promised and examined Homer’s arm. Homer continued to be generally unresponsive, although when the doctor ran his hand up and down his arm, he flinched. “The arm has not improved,” the doctor announced. “I shall need to cut it off.”

“You shall do no such thing,” Elsie declared, then transitioned into a nursely description of what she had observed the night before while, out of a sense of responsibility, she had tended to her husband even though she could scarcely stand the sight of him. “Although his arm has notimproved much, it has improved some. I can tell by a subtle color change

that may not be apparent to you. I didn’t rest at all last night. I gave my husband his aspirin but also kept him cool by dipping a towel in ice water and placing it across his brow, a procedure I’m surprised you didn’t prescribe.”

“It did not occur to me that you had ice,” the doctor said.

“I found some in the icebox where the fish is kept fresh. Now, I think what should be done is that you remove the cast, which has become nasty and is too tight, and put on a clean one a bit looser.”

The doctor was affronted. “Madam, I am a graduate of a state- approved medical school and have years of experience. I assure you that if I don’t amputate your husband’s arm, he will be dead within a couple of days.”

“He will keep his arm,” Elsie said, resolutely, “and if he is dead as a result, I will admit that you were right.”

The doctor regarded Elsie, his frown changing to an expression of consternation. “You are a pigheaded child,” he said, “who is gambling with this man’s life.”

“He is my husband,” Elsie replied, “and if a wife can’t gamble with her husband’s life, then what’s a marriage for?”

“You have an interesting take on marriage,” the doctor replied, but then opened his black bag and removed a saw and a little sack of plaster. “I shall give him a new cast, as you wish.”

“And I will help you,” Elsie said. “You see, I have training as a nurse.” Afterward, as the doctor put his saw and the empty plaster sack back into his black bag, he said, “Pray that he is stronger than I perceive. I will

not return unless sent for.”

“I doubt that will be necessary,” Elsie replied.

The doctor’s face was pinched. “Then good day to you, Madam.”

Over the next few days, Elsie plied Homer with the occasional aspi-

rin and kept him cool by wiping him down with ice water every hour. After the fish ice ran out, she drove the Buick five miles up the road to the icehouse and bought more on Captain Oscar’s credit.

Captain Oscar was impressed by her constant attention. “You must love your husband very much,” he said while holding a kerosene lantern aloft in the middle of the night to assist her in her ministrations.

“I could have saved my brother Victor if I’d brought ice to him,” Elsie said while wiping Homer down. “A fever will not catch me unawares again. If this man was the worst villain in the world, Captain, I would do no less.”

It took two days but finally came a break in Homer’s fever. The swell- ing in his arm and wrist and hand receded and the angry red streaks dissolved. While Elsie was tending to him, he blinked once, then stared at her. “Hello, Elsie,” he said. “I’m pretty cold.”

“Hello, Homer,” Elsie replied. “You had a fever but I’ve saved you with the application of ice.” She dipped a towel in the pan of ice water and raised it up so Homer could see.

“You still couldn’t have saved Victor,” he said.

“So you say,” she answered and turned his face to the window and its view of the sandy road lined by pin oaks. “Look how lovely this place is. I brought you here.”

“Where are we?”

“In South Carolina along the coast.” “We are off course.”

“I am now plotting our course. You have abrogated that responsibil- ity.”

Homer raised his ruined hand and wiggled his fingers. “It works,” he

said, “but not well.”

“It will get better,” Elsie said, “and that’s all you have to do for now,

let yourself get better. In the meantime, I will provide.” He gazed at her. “You seem angry.”

“I am angry. I will forever be angry. You said I did not deserve the money I earned. You did not back me up when I needed you.”

Homer frowned as if trying to recall, then said, “But that’s the way I felt.”

Elsie dumped the pan of ice water on Homer’s lap. “And this is how I feel.”

Elsie left Homer with his mouth open to object or ask more questions—she didn’t care which—and got busy cleaning the boarding- house from top to bottom.

 About Homer Hickam

From the bestselling author of Rocket Boys comes a long awaited prequel. BIG FISH meets THE NOTEBOOK in this somewhat true story of a woman, a husband and her alligator. In 1930s America, the Great Depression made everyone’s horizons smaller, and Elsie Lavender found herself back where she began, in the coalfields of West Virginia. She had just one memento of her halcyon days – a baby alligator named Albert.

Then one day, her husband’s stoical patience snapped and Elsie had to choose between Homer and Albert. She decided that there was only one thing to do: they would carry Albert home to Florida. And so began their odyssey – a journey like no other, where Elsie, Homer and Albert encountered everything from movie stars and revolutionaries to Ernest Hemingway and hurricanes in their struggle to find love, redemption, and a place to call home.

Homer Hickam is probably known best for his no. 1 New York Times bestselling memoir Rocket Boys which was adapted into the ever-popular move October Sky. Mr. Hickam has been a coal miner, Vietnam combat veteran, scuba instructor, NASA engineer and now a best-selling author.

Notes

 CARRYING ALBERT HOME was originally written as memoir like the author’s previous book, but in conversation with his editor, decided to turn it into fiction.

It is being published by HarperCollins globally in over ten languages.

 Homer Hickam’s childhood memoir Rocket Boys (published by 4th Estate) has sold more than a million copies domestically. It has been translated into eight languages and received many awards. It was selected by the New York Times as one of its Great Books of 1998, and was the basis for the film OCTOBER SKY starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Homer Jr.
 
Buy the paperback of Carrying Albert Home, it's absolutely fantastic.

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