Months after his brother’s death, an anguished teen finds his prayers for help answered in a surprising way.
In this tender free-verse narrative, Koertge explores quite literally the notion of faith as a balm in the wake of devastating loss. Walker and his mother live upstairs in the small-town nursing home she owns and are still racked with grief two months after troubled 17-year-old Noah’s sudden passing. Despondent over his mother’s sadness, 14-year-old Walker prays for help, and soon after, Jesus shows up, looking—in Walker’s estimation—“just like / your pictures” yet acting slightly less godlike than imagined. Koertge’s Jesus cracks lame jokes, takes to Wheaties and Almond Joys, and appears to have slightly limited powers. Visible only to Walker and select individuals, Jesus nonetheless exhibits rather classically cryptic omniscience and can’t quite answer Walker’s central existential question: “Why now?” he demands. “I prayed / to God like a thousand times. And what / happened? Noah died. Didn’t God look / downstairs? It’s a nursing home. Half / my mom’s clients are ready to check / out. But he picks a kid.” Koertge’s tight, spare verse captures the ineffable qualities of fraught relations and emotions. The generosity of spirit Walker exhibits makes this protagonist one easy for teen readers to not only empathize with, but emulate.
Didactic yet not preachy, Koertge’s tale offers much food for thought. (Fiction/poetry. 12 & up)