Revival, by Stephen King *****

revivalI was reading along; King was his usual irreverent self, cracking wise and bopping to the oldies. I experienced Jamie Morton’s childhood, his family, and the tragedy that befell their pastor, whom he adored. And then…something happened.

Mother, something happened.

As the landscape grows darker, I found Jamie again, older and much changed. The narrative filled me in on the years that were missed, and why things have gone so badly for him. Things are going to get better…and yet, so much worse. So very much worse.

Not too far in, Jamie has a repeating dream that I have had too. I was shocked! I wonder whether it is a textbook example of a grief dream? My repeating dream has been gone for over 20 years, but I had that hummer off and on for over ten before them, and was quite surprised to find them nestled into a horror story. I may try a search on it and see what pops up, not unlike Jamie’s joker in the deck of cards. You never know.

Is it just me, or has King been discussing, under cover of his standard things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, issues involving aging and death? Of course, in a horror novel, people die, and so there are grieving people in a lot of his books anyway. But in Dr. Sleep, the baddest of the bad guys prolonged their own lives at the expense of those who are young and have not had a fair turn on life’s merry-go-round yet. And although Revival doesn’t discuss these things as obviously, underneath it all lies a strong current, that we should leave when our turn is over, not tamper with nature, and accept that when it’s over, it’s really over.

If that wasn’t his intention, it’s not a bad message anyway, particularly for the Boomers whose music he incorporates into nearly every story. We want to stay, but when our turn is over, we just have to go, and make way for those that are being born.

If the reader doesn’t care to reflect on mortality in general, it is still one helluva great story!

Calling, by Joe Samuel Starnes *****

callingDo you know the Four Spiritual Laws? Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

If so, this is not your book. Move along; scoot! I am serious.

I’ll just wait for you to gather your things…have a nice day.

(pause)

Are they gone?

Good. So, this book is for the rest of us. Well, most of the rest of us. It all depends where your “ick” threshold is. I’ve mentioned this before, in other reviews. Here’s your litmus test: if you can get through at least one Stephen King novel, or if you read The Silence of the Lambs without a sick lump forming in your gut, you’ll be fine here. What Starnes has written is seriously funny, but the humor is really, really dark. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who like it will love it!

Our setting: a commercial bus, riding cross country heading northwest toward Utah. Our protagonist: Timber, a failed disc jockey confronting middle age. He is joined in the back of the bus by a Southern preacher named Zeke, who brings with him a suitcase (oh that suitcase!), a foot-long razor-sharp Bowie knife, a briefcase with a Bible in it, and a bottle of Jim Beam. Timber wants to be left alone, but once Zeke makes it clear that he wants, and intends to have, company, Timber is surprised at how much they have in common. They both grew up in poor but very religious households in the deep South, and both of them had abusive fathers. And that’s just for starters.

Unlike Timber, though, Zeke has been through seminary, where he learned to be a “front man for Jesus…His marketing team”. In ministering to prisoners, “a captive audience”, he gains a somewhat different set of skills, but once you learn to rationalize the things you learn as a seminarian, hell, you can rationalize anything.

Have you ever noticed the similarity between a church and a Vegas casino?

Does it embarrass you when your mama speaks in tongues? Be honest here.

But the most important thing to remember is that “…our God and his son are so gracious as to forgive our sins, whatever they may be…so I shut her in the trunk and drove off.”

Hmmm.

Reader, dear reader, letmetellyathis: I have never, no never in a very long time, to be absolutely, positively candid, laughed so hard. The mattress shook beneath my aging couch potato body, and it was not caused by the Holy Spirit, it was caused by the enormously amusing prose of Joe Samuel Starnes.

For those who are not easily offended and would like to be amused, this book is calling. You’d better listen. You don’t want to miss that bus!