Book: Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge, Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, Oct. 8 2013
Book Info: Audible purchase, Running time: 1 hr, 17 mins. Read by: Nick Podehl. Also available in hardcover, 128 pages from Candlewick.
Jesus lends a hand, literally, to aid a fourteen-year-old grieving for his brother.
Walker is wracked with grief and guilt over his older brother Noah’s death. But what he really hates is seeing his mother crying over the loss, two months later. He prays to God to help alleviate her pain. Imagine his surprise when Jesus shows up in person in answer to his prayers. Walker asks for help for his mom, but Jesus recognizes Walker’s own distress and helps him deal.
Coaltown Jesus is a novel in verse, and the first I’ve read by Ron Koertge. I like quirky books, though I usually stay away from books with religious overtones. Coaltown Jesus, though is witty and accessible, and talks about questions everyone has about death.
So, Jesus has quite the sense of humor in this book, describing his appearance as “Robe, sandals, beard – just like my action figure.” Though he later swaps his sandals for red Chucks. Jesus bonds with Walker like a friend, even nudging him to go for it with the girl he likes. Only Walker can see Jesus, though his presence his felt in various ways by others, and when he laughs the ground shakes like an earthquake. “I’m sorry, I can’t just giggle. I’m God.” I literally could quote all of Jesus’ lines.
Free verse works well for this quick, but meaningful read. Anyone who’s lost someone close to them will relate to Walker’s struggle and survivor’s guilt.
I had this book in ebook form, but the formatting was hard to read, so I listened to the audiobook instead. And that was a good choice, because one of my favorite male narrators, Nick Podehl reads the book. Most of the book consists of conversations between Walker and Jesus, and I suppose it was intimidating coming up with the voice of Jesus, but Podehl was up to the task. His reading matches the witty tone of the book, and brings Walker’s story to life. At just over an hour, this audiobook is a fast-paced, entertaining listen.
Ron Koertge takes on a weighty subject in Coaltown Jesus in a humorous manner that will stick with me.
Coaltown Jesus is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.