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Jesus Out to Sea: Stories Paperback – June 5, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 11 previously published stories in this strong collection showcase Burke's handling of familiar themes and places, minus the trappings that accompany his popular Dave Robicheaux or Bill Bob Holland novels. The inevitable marriage of war and atrocity is powerfully described in the very brief Vietnam War tale, "The Village." The title story, one of two dealing with Katrina and its aftermath, shows the lasting damage of war on survivors. Both "Winter Light" and "A Season of Regret" feature disillusioned, stoical academics, loners coping with the encroachments of cruder society. Most wrenching and affecting are several coming-of-age tales: "Texas City, 1947" depicts brutalized children and contains a surprising dénouement; "The Molester" and "The Burning of the Flag" both feature childhood friends from the WWII era confronting bullies or demons. Burke demonstrates impressive range, sensitivity and polish in these smaller-scale gems. (June)
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From Booklist

Burke's celebrated Dave Robicheaux mystery series hinges on encounters between the powerless and the powerful; the powerless usually lose, of course, but at least they have New Iberia, Louisiana, policeman Robicheaux to fight some of their battles for them. The 11 stories in this collection of Burke's short fiction also dramatize what happens when poor people are trapped in the vice of circumstances beyond their control, but here there is no Robicheaux to come to their aid. Although some of the stories concern individuals caught in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina--the ultimate circumstance beyond one's control--the majority are set in the past, usually rural Louisiana or Mississippi in the late 1940s. Whether the lead characters are abused children or prostitutes trying to escape the life, Burke always makes us see both the near certainty of tragedy to come and the smoldering embers of possibility in the ashes of blighted lives. He is both a deeply romantic and an unremittingly realistic writer, and it is in that tension that his lyrical prose takes flight: "But even in the middle of an Indian summer's day, when the sugarcane is beaten with purple and gold light in the fields, . . . I have to mourn just a moment for those people of years ago who lived lives they did not choose, who carried burdens that were not their own." Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Printing edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416548564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416548560
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, is the author of twenty-three previous novels, including such New York Times bestsellers as Bitterroot, Purple Cane Road, Cimarron Rose, Jolie Blon's Bounce, and Dixie City Jam. He lives in Missoula, Montana, and New Iberia, Louisiana.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Gayla Collins on October 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Not given to reading collections of short stories as a rule, I decided to give "Jesus Out to Sea" by James Lee Burke a chance as the positive reviews were luring. I was deeply rewarded for taking the bait. Each story, written with powerful, lyrical, penetrating prose, reached inside of my psyche and touched me so deeply that I am still reeling hours after finishing. Tales of childhoods spent in New Iberia, Louisiana recollect the harshness of poverty, school bullies, disappearing parents, and crime balmed only by sense of community, patriotism, and hard held friendships. Raw reflections of wars fought on battlefields and inside the soul bleed truth of one's fragility. The final story, an embittered homage to Katrina, shines a seething spotlight on this horrific event. Not since reading "A Tidewater Morning" by William Stryon have I been so profoundly moved by genuine writing. "Jesus Out to Sea" will be a permanent fixture on my bookshelves. A brilliant piece of literature and an author as gifted as James Lee Burke deserves to be read and praised by the generations.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson on August 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Many authors of yesteryear sharpened their teeth on the art of short stories. Although we don't see as many collections these days, the art is still alive and James Lee Burke is a consummate pro. "Jesus Out to Sea" sticks mostly to the haunts we've come to know and love through Burke's writing: New Orleans, Montana, and memories of Vietnam. Some of the characters are ones we've brushed past in his novels. Others give glimpses into what I can only suspect are Burke's growing-up years.

Burke, as usual, explores themes of abuse, , retribution and revenge, as well as hope and redemption. He gives us multifaceted people, rarely using strict black and white for characterizations. The details are rich and vibrant, sometimes gritty and painful. From the open-ended conclusion of "Winter Light" to the poetic justice in "A Season of Regret," we read of tension-filled situations. We discover childhood hardships in "Texas City, 1947" and "The Molester," then move to recent horrors of Hurricane Katrina in "Jesus Out to Sea."

Throughout, I knew I was in the hands of a master craftsman, a writer who refuses to candy-coat or misrepresent the world around us, yet also stands steadfastly in his belief that life is worth living.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
I remain in awe of James Lee Burke. Despite the occasional yet persistent flaws in his books --- a tendency to rush his endings, a manifestation of a seemingly pathological dislike of the wealthy --- his work remains arguably unsurpassed by contemporary authors. Burke mines much of the same territory explored by Erskine Caldwell and, more recently, Cormac McCarthy --- the plight of the underclass in the rural south --- but is more poetic than the former and more accessible than the latter.

JESUS OUT TO SEA is a collection of Burke's under-appreciated short fiction, gathered from a diverse number of sources and publications --- everything from Confrontation to Esquire to Amazon Shorts. The underdogs who populate these stories seem infused with details of Burke's own past, whether it be a retired college professor who runs afoul of bikers in "A Season of Regret" or the young man who, deprived of a responsible father figure, takes matters into his own hands in "Texas City, 1947." The atmosphere is at best grim, reaching the nadir of its abyss, in the hair-raising "Mist," in which a widow struggles to escape addiction, and the apocalyptic title story, concerning the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Even at his darkest, however, Burke's collection is shot through with a beauty and clarity that is simultaneously painful and a joy to behold. Such a state makes it difficult to pick a favorite. "Water People" describes the work of drilling oil and the people who do it with such accuracy that it seems as if one will be forever haunted by its imagery, particularly when filling up the gas tank in a weekly ritual heretofore taken for granted. The triumph over adversity against seemingly insurmountable odds is an old theme yet in "The Molester" is freshly and impressively presented.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Stine on July 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Burke's latest collection belongs with Hemingway's story collection, or The Dubliners, or any "serious" collection of short stories. Burke's "The Molester," "Why Bugsy Siegel Was My Friend," and "The Burning Of The Flag" are as stark, eerie, and important as the stuff I read in college as an Engligh major. "Jesus Out To Sea" adds a disturbing insider's view of post-Katrina New Olreans. "The Night Johnny Ace Died" is maybe as close as Burke has come to writing a "romantic" story steeped in his musical roadhouse South. Even the stories taken from characters in several Dave Robicheaux novels and renamed (for the most part) stand alone well outside of the book format. I enjoy all of Burkes novels, and I enjoyed this collection more than The Convict collection. Burke seems to get better and better, and I anxiously await the next Dave Robicheaux and Billy Bob Holland book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By jeanne-scott on September 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
James Lee Burke has compiled an amazing collection of 11 short stories in JESUS OUT TO SEA. From stories of war and it's impact, child molestation, hurricane Katrina, and stories of loners coping with those who refuse to let them be, James Lee Burke tackles them all. He has the haunting ability to reach into the souls of those placed in discordant situations and see their lives revealed. He translates the consequences of their past as they portend their reactions in the future. His stories are filled with a raw violence and a dark malevolence that bring an intensity and dark beauty to his stories. Reading this is to witness the evolution of this tremendously gifted author.
JESUS OUT TO SEA is an amazing collection of short stories by this preeminent author.
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