Lufkin Daily News review

Books Column
March 3, 2002


Christopher Cook is a native of Texas who has lived abroad and now resides in Prague, Czech Republic. He wrote a novel titled Robbers published by Carroll and Graf in 2000 that was praised widely. A New York Times reviewer said Cook has a “lyric voice that sings itself raw.”

I was fortunate enough recently to come across a book of Cook’s short stories titled Screen Door Jesus & Other Stories, a collection I enjoyed and recommend to anyone who likes good writing.

This is a collection of stories, or episodes really, set in East Texas, southeast Texas actually, in the piney woods section. All but one or two episodes are set in the fictional town of Bethlehem, a deep East Texas town where most of the people are deeply involved in a fundamentalist religion. In fact, the one criticism I have of this collection is that everyone in the town and surrounding communities appear to be fundamental religious fanatics.

But maybe Cook is laying it out this way to make a point and make a point he certainly does. He’s a good writer who sets the atmosphere and characters very well. He even lets us peek at the humor of the various situations, which is a relief in some places.

The title short story, “Screen Door Jesus,” tells of a woman in Bethlehem who discovers one day that a portrait of Jesus can be seen on the screen of her front door if the light hits it just right. The word spreads and soon people are driving in from miles around to see the phenomenon. The news spreads faster and farther until her front lawn is trampled into mud and her privacy is destroyed. Her neighbor across the street is selling parking spaces on his lot and people are selling peanuts and sandwiches to the crowds that gather daily.



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