GOSPEL HOUR by T.R. Pearson
Kirkus Star

GOSPEL HOUR

By

KIRKUS REVIEW

With this his fifth novel in almost as many years, Pearson promises to become--if he isn't already--one of the most welcome, durable, and necessary comic voices in American fiction. His lower-middle-class southern sensibility plays beautifully against his elaborate prose--a patient and loving art of indirection, circumlocution, and digression. And for all its apparent meandering, his wonderfully rough-and-tumble narrative always comes back to its plain and powerful and aesthetically redeeming point. In this case, we witness the spiritual journey of Donnie Huff, a Pabst-swilling young lumberjack who one day finds himself dead and revived during an accident while poaching hardwood. Unfazed by Donnie's brush with the hereafter, his mother-in-law, Opal Criner, views his "resurrection" as a miracle and a calling, and encourages her son-in-law to embellish upon his "brush with rapture" first for her Bible-study group at the Laurel Fork Full Gospel Primitive Missionary Holiness Church, then for its full congregation. A most reluctant witness for Christ, Donnie finds encouragement for his narrative in the sizable "hooters" of Miss Cindy Womble, whose very curvaceousness inspires his out-of-body inventions. Opal instructs Donnie in the finer points of preaching--how to hold his Bible, how to embellish his story, and how to maintain a preacher-like appearance--much to the chagrin of her daughter, Marie, who "has no use much for Jesus." Eventually, the itinerant Rev. H.W. Dunbar enlists Donnie to expound upon "the topic of his vented essence that had passed lately from his supine form and ascended into the ether." But the revivalist sham chastens even the generally unreflective Donnie, who comes to see the error of exploiting sad and sorry souls. Genial and irreverent, but with more satiric bite than fellow southerner Clyde Edgerton (see above). Pearson's narrative art demands more from readers: sit back, take your shoes off, pop a tallboy, and let his long and sinuous sentences build his wholly believable, truly miraculous world.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1990
ISBN: 688-09480-5
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
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