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Book Review: Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge

“I would have been here sooner,but the traffic on I-55 was awful.”

Walker and his mother are wandering along the long, lonely road of grief, and they are getting nowhere fast.  So one day, as Walker sees his mother crying once again for his dead brother, Walker says a prayer:

“Look,” he said, “if you’re up there, help
my mom, okay? My brother’s been dead
two whole months, and she’s still crying.”

And then Jesus comes.  He’s standing right there in Walker’s room.  The two of them spend a few days together, walking around Coaltown, Illinois talking about things like prayer, love, and healing.

This is a short, moving, and beautifully examined look at healing and faith written in free verse poetry.  At only 122 pages, it says a lot in very effective ways.  Jesus is given some personality, he wants a pair of red tennis shoes, but is never mocked or disparaged.  I thought this was such an effective portrait of grief; Walker wants Jesus to help is mom but doesn’t really recognize the depth of his own grief and guilt, but Jesus slowly and gently reveals it to him. It was just very good, and is easily approachable by all ages. I highly recommend it.

After I read it, the Tween read it.  She thought it was one of the most beautiful books she had ever read.

“He felt like a cup falling from a table.  Turning and turning,
about to shatter.”

Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge.  Candlewick Press.  ISBN: 978-0-76363-6228-8.