#130 ~ The Front Porch Prophet

December 13, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Books, Culture | 9 Comments
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cover-of-the-front-porch-prophet
The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins

When you pick up a good novel written about the south by a Southern author, you can tell.  There is just something about that area and the writers it creates that is unique, remarkable and gorgeous.  Had William Faulkner, Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell not been from the south, their novels would not be remembered today.  Had a writer with equal skill but who grew up outside of the south written To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel would have been condescending and the characters a mere stereotype.  Atticus would have inevitably been a Yankee and Boo Radley would have been nothing more than a sideshow freak resulting from inbreeding. It took a southerner to shed light on the southern life in such an honest, warm and loving way.  Atkins does just that in his debut novel.

The Front Porch Prophet tells the story of A.J. Longstreet, a man who lost his mother at birth.  He was raised in Sequoya, Georgia by his father and grandmother and he became an honorable man with a loving wife and three children, all named after authors.  He loved his family and his home, but was unfulfilled in his job supervising at the local mill.  He was content to stay where he was until he reconciled with his life-long friend, Eugene Purdue.  Eugene, who grew up in an unhappy marriage and had a seemingly never ending wild streak, learned that he had terminal cancer.  He asked A.J. to come up to visit him up on his mountain to make amends and to ask him to do the unthinkable – put him out of his misery when the time came.  A.J. had no intentions of killing Eugene, but he agreed to visit him regularly.  The rekindled friendship brings up old memories, both good and bad.  As he aids, supports,  comforts and helps Eugene find the redemption he is seeking through his last days, A.J. is forced to reconsider his beliefs and look at what truly makes him feel whole and happy.

When bad things happen to Southerners, they don’t lose their sense of humor.   You are never truly defeated so long as you don’t stop laughing at yourself.  Atkins breathes life into this world.  He writes of A.J. and Eugene’s lives with an easy sarcastic wit that is authentically Southern.  A.J. and Eugene are not the only characters in Sequoya, either.  The signs displayed in the window of the town’s only restaurant that is owned by a born again Christian are hilarious and ingenious.  By far, my favorite feature of this novel were the snippets of the letters Eugene wrote and sent out to the people of Sequoya after his death.  They appear at the beginning of each chapter, but they reflect back up the previous chapter.  His letter to the town sheriff still has chuckling when I think about it.   As it is,  is I quickly lost count of the times I laughed out loud while reading this novel.

As much as I loved the books humor, what stays with me from The Front Porch Prophet is its message about the enduring power of friendship and forgiveness.  It made me happy to be human.  For all of our weaknesses, we have the ability to overcome them and make them right.  This is a novel I will be reading again many times.  It promises to hold something new each time I read it.  This may very well be my favorite novel of 2008.  I can’t recommend it enough.

Have you read this novel?  I’d love to hear what you think.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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The Sunday Salon ~ Savoring Reading

November 30, 2008 at 8:27 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 12 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, everyone!  I hope that this post finds you fat and happy after a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.  Thanksgiving was fun this year because both girls had an understanding of what it is about and actually wanted to watch the parade with us Thursday morning.  This also promises to be a fun Christmas as well.  Both girls are starting to get on pins and needles waiting for Santa.  I can’t wait until Christmas morning!  Something tells me they won’t be sleeping in again this year like they did last year.

Savoring Reading

I want to, but I don’t – at least not recently.  This hit home last night as I was finishing up The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first Regency Romance, but as the back cover got closer and closer, my thoughts were already shifting to my Mining ARCs spreadsheet and the book I would be reading next.  When I finished the novel, there wasn’t a minute between putting The Reluctant Widow on my nightstand where it awaits my review (most likely Wednesday) and picking up The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins.  The reviews of this novel have been wonderful and I’ve really been enjoying the first 40 pages.  Still, I know that as I get closer to finishing it, I will start drifting toward whatever might be the next novel on my spreadsheet.  I just don’t like this.

This wasn’t how it always was.  I distinctly remember sitting back in my rocking chair holding my copy of Life of Pi to my chest after I finished it.  I played the novel back through my imagination, stopping from time to time to pick up on portions of Pi’s journey that I missed or overlooked during my reading.  The Monsters of Templeton, Wicked, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Last Queen, Gardens of Water, The Thirteenth Tale, The Other Boleyn Girl, Innocent Traitor, The Witch’s Trinity, The Gargoyle, and The Kite Runner had similar affects on me.  I even miss the reactions I’ve had with books I didn’t care for such as Perfect Match and Eat, Pray, Love.  At this point, I’m reading books as fast as I can to fill all of the obligations I’ve made since July.  There doesn’t seem to be room to fully appreciate a great book or get my dander up over a book that pisses me off.  There’s always that next book pushing its way into my consciousness like a permanent tooth unwilling to wait until the Tooth Fairy has been summoned.

Although I was a little blue about this last night, It has occurred to me that all is not lost until my spreadsheet is completed, though.  When I write my reviews, I am also savoring my books in a different way.  It takes me between one and two hours to write my reviews, and that is after a day or more thinking through what I want to say.  That might not feel as luxurious to me as I would like, but it is very much time spent reflecting on what I’ve read.  Between the time I finish my review of A Civil General and Wednesday, I’ll most certainly be reminising over old times with Elinor as I prepare for my review of The Reluctant Widow.  And let’s not forget that there is nothing stopping me for rereading the books I would have wanted to spend more time with after I’ve finished plowing through my ARCs.  That’s even something to look forward to, now isn’t it?

Have you been savoring any books recently?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.  I have no problem living vicariously through others…

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