How would you react if you prayed to God, and Jesus showed up at your place? Scared? Shocked? When 14-year-old Walker Powell saw Jesus standing by his brother’s bed, he retreated to his bedroom door, gasping, “Are you kidding?” And Jesus simply responded with, “You prayed. I showed up. I would have been here sooner, but traffic on I-55 was awful.” And thus begins Walker’s hilarious encounter with the Son of God.
"Koertge has done a marvelous job intertwining spirituality and humanity to produce language, set to free-verse poetry, that all will understand and appreciate. No doubt, young adult readers on up will be chuckling from start to finish."
Walker has a difficult time understanding why Jesus can’t fix up his mom right away. His mom has been crying ever since his brother, Noah, died two months ago. Jesus tells him that “fixing” takes time. He knows that Walker’s mom is not the only one needing help since Walker, too, is affected by Noah’s death, but he doesn’t want to admit it. And since it’s going to take some time to reach out to him, Jesus decides to “hang out” with Walker, who lives with his mom in a small apartment upstairs from the nursing home that his mom owns.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for Walker to warm up to Jesus’s down-to-earth mannerisms and his comedic tongue-in-cheek scriptural commentaries. Walker begins challenging Jesus with questions about life and death. In turn, sensing that Walker is beginning to let down his emotional guard a bit, Jesus begins to challenge him with questions about his friends, family and eventually the very thing that Walker does not want to talk about: Noah. Little by little, Jesus answers Walker’s prayer, but not in a way that Walker expects.
Walker is a reflection of us: always quick to think of others’ needs, instead of our own. Like Walker, we compartmentalize our pain because we are afraid that if we face it, the pain will only hurt more. But Jesus knows how to lighten our load, as we find out in COALTOWN JESUS, which is a simple story about life and death issues that offers light-hearted yet profound food for thought. Koertge has done a marvelous job intertwining spirituality and humanity to produce language, set to free-verse poetry, that all will understand and appreciate. No doubt, young adult readers on up will be chuckling from start to finish.
Reviewed by Anita Lock on October 28, 2013