This novel is a complex mix of tent revivals, spirit-filled fervor, ghosts, pubescence, love, temptation, slave stories, haunted plantations, and demonic activity. I've never read anything quite like it.
Little Texas is a 16 year-old kid from Alabama who meets with fame by bringing a man back from the dead and has been healing people at tent revivals across the South ever since. He begins to feel like a fraud when a sick girl he lays hands on dies rather than recovers. The ghost girl, Lucy, begins to haunt his meetings and eventually leave him love notes. But ghosts are contrary to the Bible, aren't they? She follows him to the Vanderloo Plantation on Devil Hill, a haunted plantation which the author of 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey supposedly visited for possible inclusion in her book. There, Little Texas must battle with demons of the past and learn the meaning of life and love.
There are many nice touches of authenticity in the novel. I enjoyed the authentic Southern parlance: "tote" instead of "carry", "liable" instead of "likely", "tump" instead of "turn over and dump", "chimbley" instead of "chimney", etc. It brings a nice Southern flavor to the story. The confused feelings of a religious pubescent boy about his new feelings toward members of the opposite sex is also a nice touch since it's a very real part of being in the ministry but not understanding why you're still feeling these feelings. I also like that the author makes the Vanderloo Plantation out to be a real place by having Kathryn Tucker investigate it for her book. However, upon further research, there doesn't seem to be any such plantation in Alabama.
While I enjoyed this book quite a lot because there are so many parts of it I could relate to, I think its themes aren't going to be universally appealing. I probably AM this book's niche market: I grew up in Alabama going to tent revivals, watching my dad doing street ministry (in Andalusia, AL, where a character of the book does street ministry), reading 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (despite the Christians who chided it as not being compatible with Christianity), going to school in the same town as one of the haunted sites in the book (in Kinston, AL, where Grancer Harrison
's mansion once stood), and going through the confusing process of being a youth minister at age 16. But how many people with my specific upbringing and background are actually out there? I could see this novel as possibly being offensive to tent-revival-goers and too religious for non-religious ghost-lovers. It certainly could cause a nice stir of discussion though.Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.