Less ambitious than the tragicomic Floatplane Notebooks (1988), Edgerton's latest is much the better for it. A modest and...



Less ambitious than the tragicomic Floatplane Notebooks (1988), Edgerton's latest is much the better for it. A modest and amiable satire of Southern Baptist culture, this tale of wholesome rebelliousness brings back the good-hearted orphan boy of Walking Across Egypt (1985), Wesley Benfield, now a young man in his 20s trying awfully hard to be a good Christian. Saved by the kind intervention of Mrs. Mattie Rigsbea in the earlier novel, Wesley nevertheless, at the outset here, finds himself in a halfway house for stealing a car. There, he has caught the eye of officials at Ballard University (its motto: ""witnessing by example""), who enlist him in their ""Project Promise,"" a program bringing together repentant miscreants and the educationally handicapped, the latter to learn useful trades from the former. Wesley sets out to teach masonry to Jules Vernon Johnson, a motherless boy who drives an imaginary car, looks like a possum, and can play the piano like an angel. Which comes in handy, since Wesley's real love is his own music-making--something that has found expression in the halfway house's band, The Noble Defenders of the Word, an interracial gospel band who secretly prefer the blues. But this group of talented misfits must hide their truly joyful noise from the vain and ambitious Sears brothers--the president and provost of the University who together advance Ballard's mission of ""making the world more American, more Christian, more union-free in the best sense of those words."" Also complicating Wesley's status as a model born-again former car-thief is his new-found passion for Phoebe Trent, an obese beauty who has come to Ballard's ""Christian diet center."" Wesley has a hard time reconciling his wet dreams with his Bible-reading, but he decides upon further perusal that the Good Book has strange wonders to be told, including lots of steamy parts they never read in church. Wesley's spiritual journey builds to a heady crescendo, with Wesley just outside the law but well on the path to true goodness. Love and loyalty triumph over righteousness in this affectionate, gently uplifting comedy--with further adventures surely in the offering.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1990