In Ron Koertge’s new novel, Coaltown Jesus, divinity may not be all it seems. The last thing that fourteen-year-old teenager Walker expected was to find Jesus in the bedroom he shared with his brother. He stopped depending on Jesus a long time age when his seventeen-year-old brother died of an overdose on that same bedroom’s floor. When his mother started crying and wouldn’t stop. When Walker slowly and steadily built a wall around his heart and a barrier over his soul. When his hometown of Coaltown, Illinois, turned its back on the family that had been through it all. Except Jesus isn’t all Walker expected—no holier-than-thou or divine attitude, no choirs of angels singing, no bright white light shining through the room. In fact, Jesus seems just like a normal guy—laughing at lame jokes, shooting baskets, giving useless dating advice……with a penchant for disappearing suddenly, performing “small” miracles, and making the impossible seem possible. But even that can’t dispel Walker’s anger at the higher power. Jesus wasn’t there when Walker needed him. Will Jesus help him pick up the pieces of his heart……or leave just like he has before?
“When he went back indoors, Jesus was standing in the center of the room, between walker’s bed and what used to be Noah’s. Walker retreated. Back to the door. Fumbled with the knob. “Are you kidding me?” he asked.”
This book was certainly different. Outside the box. Unique. I know when I think of Jesus, I think of angels singing and bright light and larger than life mirages. But this book portrayed him as a smart mouthed, athletic, and fun individual—and I think that was what made the connection for me. Sometimes it is hard to understand why God seems to take some good out of the world and replace it with bad—and I think that will always be one of life’s greatest mysteries. We also have all been affected by death, like Walker and his mother—and affected by the stereotypical beliefs about a certain race or gender—like Jesus. Koertge did a wonderful job getting those points across. And for all you reluctant readers--this book was SHORT. 122 pages, to be exact. It is also written in verse, making it a quick read without many dry or boring parts. If you’re looking for a brief and easy read, this novel is for you!
“He was dead. I found him right where you are now, and he was dead.” It came out like a wail.”
I would recommend this book for ages eight and up for mild drug references and a single expletive. I feel it would be good for younger age groups for its quickness and easy to read format. The vocabulary is not all that advanced, either.
Walker can’t deny it—Jesus is in his life now, and he can’t forget it. So as he struggles to get over his brother’s death, will he finally start healing—or will Jesus disappear and leave him as broken as before?