Sunday, 29 April 2012

Black Jesus by Simone Felice (2.5/5)

The back says: A young marine returns home from Iraq, blinded and scarred by a roadside bomb and harbouring a terrible secret. He saw something in Iraq that can never be erased and the knowledge of it is slowing driving him mad. Called Black Jesus by his fellow soldiers on account of his name being Lionel White and his birthday being Christmas Day, he has returned to his decaying home town to sit in the back of his mother's junkshop, drop Oxycontin and try to forget what he knows. Into his life one day rides Gloria, a young dancer with a mysterious past and shocking injuries of her own, who is fleeing darkness and violence of a different kind. Together they might just be able to make one life whole again.

Part love story, part protest at the broken promises lying at the heart of the American Dream, Black Jesus is a passionate, twisted hymn to the marginalised and forgotten.

I say: I need to start off by saying that I knew when I bought this book that I probably wasn’t going to like it. But it was all in the name of pushing my reading boundaries and trying literature that I’m usually prejudiced against.

I like reading about war, and even the aftermath of war, so that’s not an issue. What I don’t like reading is when, what I perceive as, the author’s negative opinions about war are so blatant that they overshadow the entire story. It felt like I was constantly being hit over the head that war is bad and see how it destroyed this young man’s life every time Black Jesus was mentioned.

It was just too much.

Gloria’s story started out interesting enough, but as soon as she met Black Jesus she was sucked into that vortex of sentimentality (for lack of a better word) and started to bore me.

However, it was a quick enough read that alternated between first following Black Jesus and Gloria, and then life in Gay Paris, NY (where they live) and life in Venice Beach, CA (where Gloria escaped from). If I had to choose, I would rather have had Felice write about the junkie Bebop who walked the streets of Venice Beach playing his recorder. Now that was a man who probably had stories to tell.

So yeah, 2.5/5 because I enjoyed the parts with Bebop and some of the people in Gay Paris (them removed I would probably have given it 1.5/5).

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