Clement, Alison 1953-
Clement, Alison 1953-
Born 1953, in GA; married Chuck Willer (a conservationist); children: Sasha, Charlotte.
Home—Corvallis, OR. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and librarian. Has worked as a waitress, bartender, gas station attendant, taxi driver, house painter, and security guard.
Pretty Is as Pretty Does, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
Twenty Questions, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to various periodicals, including Sun, High Country News, and Alaska Quarterly Review. Also author of blog, Alison Clement Blog site.
Alison Clement, an elementary school librarian in Oregon, published her debut novel, Pretty Is as Pretty Does, in 2001. Clement's writing had previously appeared in a number of periodicals, including High Country News and the Alaska Quarterly Review. Much like the protagonist in her novel, she spent some of her formative years in the small Midwestern town where she moved when she was fifteen after spending her childhood in the South.
Pretty Is as Pretty Does is set in the fictional Illinois farming town of Palmyra. The tale is narrated by the twenty-two-year-old protagonist Lucy Fooshee, the winner of several local beauty pageants, who uses her good looks to attract the men of Palmyra. Lucy, whom a Publishers Weekly contributor called "vain, selfish, sharp-tongued and obtuse," manipulates a man named Bob Bybee into marrying her. Bob is a farmer from one of the richest families in Palmyra, and the two move into the kind of big home that Lucy, who is from a much poorer family, has always dreamed of. However, it does not take long for her to realize that life with a farmer is not what she expected, and she quickly gets annoyed by many of Bob's crude habits, such as chewing with his mouth open.
Lucy's life takes a big turn when she meets a drifter named Billy Lee at the local café just two weeks after her wedding. Lucy is immediately interested in the handsome Billy, who is working as a handyman for his aunt. The two begin a romance, and Billy awakens in Lucy feelings of love and a sexuality that she has never known before. However, the affair draws the ire of the townspeople, who not only disdain her for her infidelity but also look down on Billy because he is half Native American. And in Palmyra racism runs deep. Despite Lucy's attempts to keep the romance from her husband, Bob ultimately finds out about it and brings it to a swift end. Still, Lucy learns much about herself and life in general, leading reviewer Lynn T. Theodose on the Boulder Weekly.com Web site to characterize the novel as "a story of one woman's liberation through self-discovery." Other critics also praised Clement's depiction of Lucy, including Library Journal contributor Ann H. Fisher, who called her "a fresh, spunky heroine who lights up this first novel." In a review in Booklist, Elsa Gaztambide labeled Lucy "a complex character" who "ignites the pages with lusty passages spewed from a volcano of pent-up desire." Finding the book "a very satisfying read," Melanie Danburg of the Houston Chronicle added that Clement writes "with ease and inherent humor."
In her second novel, Twenty Questions, Clement tells the story of June Duvall, who is suffering from survivor's guilt. When June's car breaks down, she intuitively refuses a ride from a murderer. However, the man goes on to kill the mother of a girl in the school where June is a cafeteria worker. June becomes friendly with Cindy Hanks, daughter of the murdered woman, by lying about her relationship to Cindy's family and about herself. Eventually, June ponders adopting Cindy after learning that there may be incest within Cindy's family. As June's marriage begins to crumble, she learns things about the murder of Cindy's mother that sends her own life into further turmoil. In a review in the School Library Journal, Pat Bangs called Twenty Questions "a novel about the twists and turns of deceits, small and large." Maureen Neville, writing in the Library Journal, commented that the author "offers a some times sad yet finally gratifying glimpse into one woman's awakening about death, fate, life, and love." Carol Haggas noted in Booklist that Clement provides a "subtly malevolent yet intensely empathetic portrait of desperate lives."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2001, Elsa Gaztambide, review of Pretty Is as Pretty Does, p. 2084; May 1, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of Twenty Questions, p. 20.
Houston Chronicle, December 16, 2001, Melanie Danburg, "A Heroine Both Laughable and Likable," p. 18.
Library Journal, August, 2001, Ann H. Fisher, review of Pretty Is as Pretty Does, p. 159; May 15, 2006, Maureen Neville, review of Twenty Questions, p. 87.
Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of Pretty Is as Pretty Does, p. 57; May 15, 2006, review of Twenty Questions, p. 48.
School Library Journal, September, 2006, Pat Bangs, review of Twenty Questions, p. 246.
Alison Clement Home Page,http://www.alisonclement.org (February 2, 2007).
Alison Clement MySpace Profile,http://www.myspace.com/alisonclement (February 2, 2007).
Boulder Weekly.com,http://www.boulderweekly.com/ (January 30, 2002), Lynn T. Theodose, review of Pretty Is as Pretty Does.