Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: White Bird Publications
Date of Publication: March 8, 2016
Number of Pages: 314
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In the summer of 1969, a small town in west Texas prepares to send one of their finest young men off to fight a faraway, controversial war. A parallel battle of domestic violence erupts at home as a younger generation struggles to reconcile older notions of right and wrong and even fractured family ties with the inevitable price that the fighting demands.
Much like today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Vietnam war is little understood by those left behind, but the lessons of strength, commitment and duty are timeless, then and now. East Jesus, the story of that national struggle today as well as back in 1969, is a plangent, soulful journey lived through the eyes of a wide-ranging, colorful array of characters, with a conclusion readers will never forget.
There’s more. “East Jesus,” said one editor, “is a message of hope for our children.” Too often, teenagers who’ve survived a young lifetime of domestic violence believe “this is the hell I was born into, this is the hell I must accept for life.” East Jesus turns that notion on its ear: though there’s a price to pay, there’s a better way that rises above the violence.
The novel is peopled by strong characters, particularly women, in a salt-of-the-earth, small town, west Texas community. The price of a far away, unpopular war always comes due in small town America, then (set in 1969) as well as now (Iraq and Afghanistan). But the lesson of hope, sacrifice and redemption is timeless.
To read East Jesus is to live that story, to transcend the fighting at home and abroad, and to embrace the hope and faith in what’s right above all else.
Experience East Jesus, live the story–you’ll never forget it.
Now I know that this book isn’t YA, but I have to say that Manno has the teen speak and tone down to the point that I was not expecting the man in his picture (see below) as the author. Sorry if that’s ageist, but I mean it as a compliment. As someone who loves reading YA because I never outgrew the teen angst and obsession with anything Apocalyptic, I don’t think that I could maintain a tone as authentic as Manno. But I’ve digressed.
While I had trouble keeping all the characters straight in the beginning (there are lots of people… and dogs… with strange names), I think I finally got a hang of things about a quarter of the way through. And while I didn’t particularly care for some characters (Travis lost the parent lottery), I found them all interesting and realistic.
So many books have domestic abuse in them and I’ve found that most have some sort of an explanation (not justifying it, but there’s usually some stupid reason) for why it occurs. The reason unfolds at the end of this book. But I was so wrapped up in whatever moment was happening that I didn’t sit and ponder about it.
I’ve lived my whole life in Texas, most of it bordering a sleepy ol’ Western-ish town, but I still feel like I’m reading about foreign places when I read novels like this one. I guess that’s an attribute to just how vast and varied our great state is. I don’t think the fact that it’s set on the cusp of the 70’s is the issue either. There’s just something very different about a town where there’s literally only a handful of places to spend a Friday night. And yes, football does make an appearance.
My takeaway from this book is you don’t get to pick who your family is, but you can pick the people around you who can be your new family. And you might not succeed in protecting each other, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on building a new, good life. Manno doesn’t paint a pretty picture of this town and time period, but I found this book refreshing all the same.
Chris Manno matriculated from Springfield, Virginia and graduated from VMI in 1977 with a degree in English. He was commissioned in the Air Force and after completing flight training, spent seven years as a squadron pilot in the Pacific at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. He was hired by American Airlines as a pilot in 1985 and was promoted to captain in 1991. He flies today as a Boeing 737 captain on routes all over North America and the Caribbean. He earned a doctorate in residence at Texas Christian University and currently teaches writing at Texas Wesleyan University in addition to flying a full schedule at American Airlines. He lives in Fort Worth.
GIVEAWAYS! GIVEAWAYS! GIVEAWAYS!
Each winner gets an author signed copy of East Jesus PLUS
a free download of Chris’s cartoon book #RudeLateNightCartoons
May 10 – May 19, 2016
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