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Coaltown Jesus Kindle Edition
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|Length: 129 pages|
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I'll tell you what. This book is about a boy trying to overcome the death of his brother and a mother who can't forgive herself for the death of her son. It's about loving someone who's made a lot of bad choices and trying to see the good in him. It's about watching everyone else be okay and wonder how the world can go on. And it's even about running a nursing home and all the sadness that can come with that.
Oh yeah, and it's about Jesus. But this isn't your typical Lamb of God. In fact, Ron Koertge's version of Jesus hates being called Lamb. Why couldn't it be Dog of God? He really likes dogs. This Jesus is sarcastic, irreverent, and totally human - just the kind of Jesus a teenager like Walker needs. With Jesus' help, Walker learns that his life doesn't have to end just because his brother's did.
Another great thing about this book is that it doesn't try to answer open-ended questions. For example, why did Walker's brother die when his mother's nursing home was full of patients ready to go? And where is Noah? Is he in heaven, hell, somewhere else? Every reader will have a different take, a different answer. And that's fine, because finding definitive answers isn't the point of this book. Jesus makes it clear: the point is healing, even when you don't know you're broken.
I admit that some people won't like the Messiah talking like a teenager. It's a little jarring, but I ended up loving it. It reminded me of something I feel like Christians don't think about enough: that Jesus was an actual person once. Walker says at one point that he likes being reminded of that. Jesus responds, "Me, too."
Me three, Jesus.
Koertge's vision of Jesus may jolt some of his readers. Walker's a mouthy, sometimes cynical American teenager, and this Jesus relates to him on that level. So we get some strange Jesus humor, like when they pass a display of nails at the hardware store. "Jesus stared at his hands. 'I mean nails are a miracle and God is in them, but they still give me the shivers.'"
Off-beat as his Jesus may be, Koertge does have some good insights. My favorite has to do with prayer. After listening to an elderly widow in Walker's mother's nursing home reminisce, Jesus comments on how much he loves listening to people's stories. "But what do I get? 'Send me a pony.'" Walker asks whether it's OK for kids to want a pony. "Little kids I don't mind," Jesus replies. "every kid wants a pony. Stop with the begging, okay? Adore me for a change. Or give thanks. I like gratitude. Or ask for guidance. But on, no. It's always the pony."
Coaltown Jesus is a fun, quick read. Followers of Jesus might be uncomfortable with some of Koertge's characterization of Jesus, but I do love that he presents Jesus as a having a sense of humor and who we can all relate to.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!