The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama

by Susan Abel Sullivan

Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes


It all starts when Cleopatra and Bertram Tidwell acquire a velvet painting of Elvis Presley from Bertram's mother. The painting is purported to be haunted, and all manner of kooks and Elvis fanatics begin visiting the Tidwell house in the hopes of borrowing, buying or stealing the kitsch decor. Cleo would just as soon be rid of it, but Bertram develops an unnatural attraction to the painting...and the painting develops an attraction to him...and this attraction begins to take on sinister import. 

The painting refuses to be covered. It refuses to be moved. It seems to be transforming Bertram into an Elvis impersonator. Or maybe, just maybe, into the King himself. Unless, of course, Bertram is simply having a midlife crisis. Or trying to drive Cleo mad. The fruity members of the Church of the Blue Suede Shoes, random psychics, art collectors and spook kooks everywhere add to the whirlwind.

In the first half of the book all the weirdness could be explained away with, well, everyday weirdness. But about halfway through, I won't spoil the fun, but the novel takes on a paranormal sheen and becomes as suspenseful as it has been funny. Cleo is no longer simply fighting for good taste (a struggle that never ends), but she's fighting for life, limb, and her Southern reputation as the loonies begin to show their true, supernatural colors. 

I don't think I've giving away too much by quoting a psychic's vision:
I'm seeing the color blue. It surrounds your husband's essence as well as Aaron Vassals'. And I'm seeing blood. Blood and paint mixed together. And a twin. Your husband has traded places with a twin. You've got to ... oust the twin without destroying the body ... before the mother returns.

I can almost guarantee this is unlike anything you have ever read. You will fall in love with the protagonist, a twice-divorced Alabama girl who is absolutely determined not to breach etiquette a third time via divorce--even if her husband has grown porkchop sideburns and swaggers to the dinner table in white leather to sing karaoke at the drop of a hat. 

Haunted Housewives is a wonderful romp of a ghost story and quite possibly the funniest novel I've read since Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.