Lamb Bright Saviors by Robert Vivian (US) - (Canada)
Pages: 184 pages
Finished: Apr. 28, 2010
First Published: Mar. 1, 2010
Publisher: Bison Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
The preacher came up the dusty road followed by the girl pulling the wagon stacked with bibles.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the book's publicist, phenix & phenix.
Reason for Reading: I'm attracted to this type of stark literature and the religious themes intrigued me.
A terminally ill itinerant preacher and the girl who has been with him since toddlerhood are crossing the Nebraska prairies when the preacher's self-proclaimed prophecy of dying in front of a group of strangers comes true when he stumbles and goes down for the last time. Out of the fields from a nearby fishing area come four men reunited for the first time in 20 years who come and take the preacher to the only house around for miles, that of a blind old lady. It is here that the preacher madly babbles on about how these four men were chosen to be the ones he would die before. Each man has his own demon he is struggling with, plus twenty years ago when they were on the verge of manhood they were in this lady's house once before and something bad happened there that has never been atoned for.
The writing is stark and haunting, with few words Vivian creates a short novel with a powerful tale to tell. A cast of eccentric characters with lives either going nowhere or stuck in a recurring loop. There is Mr. Gene, the preacher, ill and possibly mad who rambles and preaches wherever his feet take him, not making much sense yet sometimes saying something quite profound; his goal is his promised glorious death. Mady, a thirteen-year-old girl who says Mr. Gene kidnapped her from her parents' home as a toddler who loves Mr. Gene and is filled with a joy that makes her want to sing and dance; she follows him everywhere he goes pulling a wagon full of bibles with a seat belt strap around her head. The blind lady, Mrs. Marian, whose son and husband have died before her, independent and proud, she sits in a rocking chair most of the time facing the front door. While she sees nothing she seems to produce a light around herself that others see. The four men are all around the same age mid to late thirties: Munoz, who has returned from the Iraq War a changed person with a gruesome promise he must keep; Yarborough, an ex-con who figures he'll be back inside before the year is out; Oly, an addict who lives in the dugout of an abandoned baseball field and finally Gus, the youngest of the four who has chosen to cover every inch of his body with tattoos.
The story is told in short chapter's each one told in the first person from a different character's voice. All speak, some only once, other's several times. This is a story of redemption, faith, the yearning for confession and penitence. The story hits hard, Vivian pulls no punches with his word choices as he takes us down this dark road where hope still lingers. A couple of the voices are quite vulgar in language and no one's backstories are very pretty but this is a book that grabs you and is hard to put down. A quick read, yet a very worthy one.