Days of Little Texas by R.A. Nelson (pub. 7/09)

February 25, 2009 at 6:01 pm Leave a comment

texas

Sixteen-year-old Ronald Earl is an evangelical preacher who goes from town to town to heal and inspire crowds. He is the adopted son of Miss Wanda Joy, her elderly husband, Sugar Tom, and a close African-American friend named Certain Certain. At one meeting, Ronald tries to heal a young girl Lucy. Something goes awry and he fails. But, Lucy reappears to him as a spirit. She leaves a metal bar with the words “I love you” on it. The evangelical group goes to an old slave plantation for a revival meeting where many strange occurrences abound, including a midnight run through a tremendous storm where Lucy and Ronald canoe to an island and see a huge, 200-year-old gnarled tree covered with manacles and chains. Lucy, even though a spirit from the other side, has enough physicality for Ronald to fondle and kiss. Even before Lucy appears, Ronald has his first sexual encounter with the wife of the plantation owner. The experience makes him doubt his vocation and he regards himself as a sinner. Certain Certain strengthens Ronald’s faith by giving him his own valued totem, a slave tag to keep him safe from Satan and other temptations. Nelson mixes the fervor of evangelical preaching with heavy doses of ghostly contact and the stirrings of a young man. The result is a mishmash of religious convictions, an attempt to settle guilt over the curse of slavery, and a handful of underdeveloped characters that seem to have come from an earlier time, though the book is set in the present. Evoking Satan, snatching souls, discussing heaven and hell, are anachronisms to a modern reader. This book fails to make these issues relevant. Not recommended.

Lillian Hecker (Pelham)

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