Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Here's another novel about Southerners behaving badly.  Yes, I know, this is about a rural community, and obviously this kind of thing really happens, but the Pentecostals are even starting to give up speaking in tongues.  This book is set 30 years ago, I think, but still….  We have 3 first-person narrators (very Faulkneresque):  Jess (a 9-year-old boy that, once again, I initially thought was a girl), Adelaide (an elderly woman), and Clem (the sheriff).  Just the fact that the sheriff is one of the narrators does not portend well for this community.  The villain is Carson Chambliss, pastor of a small church where snake-handling is the norm.  One elderly woman has already died due to this practice, but the so-called Christian parishioners dumped her body in her backyard so that there would be no suspicions surrounding the church.  Adelaide now keeps all the children at her house during the services to protect them from the caged rattlers.  Jess peeks in a church window one Sunday and observes church members trying to cure his older brother Stump of muteness by laying on hands, which is not as gentle a process as one might think.  All in all, Chambliss is one of the scariest religious fanatics ever, and he's having an affair with Jess's mother.  There must be some charisma there, but that didn't come across to me.  In fact, I like for my characters to be a little more nuanced, but he is bad to the bone.  When Jess inadvertently causes the zealots to believe that a miracle has occurred, the consequences are dire.  Jess's paternal grandfather, whom the sheriff blames for his son's death, reenters the picture as a somewhat reformed man.  This book did not teach me anything, nor did it move me or entertain me all that much, but it inspired a pretty lively book club discussion.

No comments: