From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Too much pot. Too many beers. Tired of lying to his parents, Patton, 18, is ready to come clean. He goes looking for God at a charismatic megachurch where people are "unabashedly excited about Jesus," and his life turns around. He speaks in tongues, dances spontaneously during worship services, enrolls at Oral Roberts University. And he prays incessantly: "My prayers cover the nation, the world. They pour out of my mouth and gush through the air, rumbling up the foothills of Pikes Peak and leaping into the sky, splashing down into the plains and rushing across into the towns and boroughs and metropolises, seeping under people's windowsills and covering their entire homes like a film that won't come off." Now a grad student and contributing editor to the webzine killingthebuddha.com, Dodd engagingly recreates two years of passionate faith and excruciating doubt, weaving historical notes and sociological observations into his personal narrative. Though his experience as a fanatically "evangelical, Bible-believing, chest-pounding Christian" was short-lived, Dodd's tone is sympathetic as well as wryly humorous, and his analysis is usually kind: "ORU is not a place of insincere devotion; it is a place of extreme devotion sincerely and frequently expressed." This lively coming-of-age story succeeds both as literary memoir and as an intimate look at a popular variety of American religious experience.
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There is nothing new about the crisis of faith that afflicts adolescents as they question and rebel against the religion, or lack thereof, of their parents. What is new is what Dodd brings in this personal, sometimes embarrassing, always pithy and articulate account of his own journey through the valley of doubt. En route from his Southern Baptist roots, he gave up pot smoking and philandering, plunged headlong into the evangelical charismatic movement, chose to strengthen his faith by attending Oral Roberts University, but then dropped out, only to pick up his education later at a secular university. In an engaging writing style that allows him to be both protagonist and dispassionate observer, Dodd stands outside himself and, with insight and humor, presents a young man's search for God, piety, and the answers to all life's imponderables. In conclusion, "the only honest way for this story to end," he says, "is for it to come to silent rest right in the middle," where he has found two out of three. Donna Chavez
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