Days of Little Texas - Review

Days of Little Texas by R. A. Nelson
Publication date: July 14, 2009
ISBN 10/13: 0375855939 / 9780375855931

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Ghosts, Faith, Love, Sins, Atonement

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How I found out about this book: I was leafing through the Ingram Kids catalog one day and this pretty pink cover jumped out at me (thank you, Coleman Polhemus). The blurb intrigued me despite the religious--heck, evangelical!--subject of the story. I ordered it immediately (the other book I ordered was When You Reach Me--pink must have been in last year) then sat it on my TBR shelf for about 6 months.

Quickie: Do you really want to read about a teen preacher who thinks he's being haunted? Yeah, I didn't think I did either. Which is why this sat on my TBR shelf for 6 months before I finally picked it up. But I'm so glad I did.

My review: Days of Little Texas instructs without being preachy. Instead of talking about religion, it talks about faith, devotion, and love. Thoughtful, funny, and a little melancholy, the story follows a sixteen-year-old faith healer around modern-day America as he begins to question his calling. When a mysterious golden-haired girl in a blue dress begins appearing at his sermons, he wonders if he is being haunted by someone he failed to save. While his religious upbringing has taught him to believe in the spirit, he doesn't believe in ghosts... but he doesn't have to believe in them for Lucy to seem very, very real.

Great characters make this a must-read. I loved Certain Certain with his jolly, down-to-earth attitude, and his seemingly unending supply of historical facts and everyday wisdom. I could hear Little Texas and the passionate cadence of his sermons: "brothers and sisters, ah!" I could practically see his vision filling with white light as he was taken over by the Holy Spirit. I even enjoyed stern old Miss Wanda Joy, despite her increasingly malignant to recover past glory and fortune on the tent-revival circuit.

Nelson balances the heavier elements of this novel (dark themes like slavery, greed, and evil) with humor and a little horror. I kept thinking, if Wes Anderson would ever make a horror movie, it should probably be this one. You'll have to read it to see what I mean; I don't want to spoil it for you!

As a non-religious person I do have to wonder what a devout person (particularly an evangelically-inclined Christian, Pentecostal, etc.) would make of this book. I think Nelson does a good job of differentiating between religious folks who are truly faithful versus those whose belief is clouded or misunderstood. I also think the connections woven between faith, righteousness, and fear with regard to the subject of slavery in  antebellum South are thought-provoking and would make a great discussion topic for a book group or class.

In any case I thoroughly enjoyed Nelson's writing and look forward to reading the rest of his books (which I've just ordered online). Come on, Mr. Postman! Chop, chop!

Who should read this book: Well, the first chapter is a teenage boy's wet dream--not making this up--so while everything is a little blurry and no parts are named (well, all right, he has a bit of a fixation with breasts--usually followed up by a bit of blushing shame), I don't know if the references to sexuality will go over well with very young readers. I personally found them quite humorous. I could picture Little Texas turning beet-red every time Lucy brushes up against him, stiffening every time she--hey, get your mind out of the gutter! I bet you'd stiffen too if you woke up with a reanimated dead girl beside you in bed in the middle of the night.

If you love ghost stories and don't mind irreverent references to religion, pick this up.

Days of Little Texas is R. A. Nelson's 3rd novel. Look for his next novel, Throat, due out September 14, 2010.

Find the author at, on Twitter @ranelsonbooks

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