-- Booklist "Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu--the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Read more...
--Booklist "Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu--the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict's daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand."
--The New York Times Book Review, on All or Nothing Into an austere community of Christian believers at the Church of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters come the star-crossed African American Romeo and Juliet. In the world of Jesus Boy, Romeo is sixteen-year-old Elwyn Parker, a devout and sincere piano prodigy who learns too late that the saintly girl he has had a crush on all his life is inexplicably pregnant and soon to be wed. Juliet is the beautiful widow, Sister Morrisohn, age forty-two, who, in the pain and confused emotions of her grieving, ends up in Elwyn's arms. Despite the problems posed by their age difference and the strict prohibitions of their strong religious beliefs, Elwyn and Sister Morrisohn's love is true, and as it grows among the ascetics, abstainers, and holy ghost rollers of their church, it exposes with wit, poignancy, and insight the dark secrets and ancient crimes of the pious. In Jesus Boy, Elwyn learns through tragedy and epiphany that the holy are no different from the rest of us.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 36.
- Review Date: 2009-12-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Though well plotted, this tale of a May-December romance in a religious black community in 1970s Florida fails to become anything more than a passing crush. Elwyn Parker is a smart 16-year-old equally dedicated to piano and God. When his sweetheart marries another man after conceiving a child with him, Elwyn is thrown into the arms of the seductive Sister Morrisohn, 42 years old and mourning a deceased husband. What begins as lust turns into something that will test Elwyn’s strict adherence to biblical law, as well as alienate him and Morrisohn from their congregation, community, and peers. Allen can plot, and his prose is always up to the task of delivering the next twist in the story, but his characters and their world never become complex enough to satisfy. Though apt at quoting the Bible, their conscience-pricked gnashings rarely get beyond that stage, making the dilemmas they wrestle with feel false. Similarly, a potentially interesting subplot involving Morrisohn’s disapproval of her gay brother remains stuck in the name-calling stage. Allen’s novel isn’t without merit, but it doesn’t penetrate as deeply as it could. (Apr.)