If you’re looking for a quirky, off-beat adventure, Clyde Edgerton’s new book, The Bible Salesman, is for you. My contacts over at Hachette Book Group sent me an advance copy to read through and at first I was skeptical. I’m not a religious person so I had a hard time imagining that I’d enjoy a book about a Bible salesman. However, I trust the insight and taste of Hachette so I gave it a shot.
To be fair, the book gets going a bit slowly, despite the fact that it is a slim 238 pages. For much of that start we are inside the mind of Henry Dampier, the Bible salesman. It isn’t until we begin to see him interacting with the outside world that we understand how intelligent, though endearingly gullible he is. And then all of a sudden rather than trying to figure out why in the world this man appears so odd to us, we are routing for him as he gets more deeply involved with a ring of dangerous people.
Edgerton does a wonderful job of weaving classic literature themes – good versus evil, love, danger, the combined hero desire and opportunity to take a life on the ride from ordinary to extraordinary – in a wholly new and entertaining way. The other piece of Edgerton’s writing that I find so brilliant in this piece is that he asks his readers to consider religion and its role in raising children by revealing how one life, the life of Henry, was forever molded and influenced by a fundamentalist upbringing.
He doesn’t preach to us and he doesn’t tell us that a fundamentalist upbringing to harmful or helpful. He lays out a plot, explains Henry’s decision process and view of the world, and reveals how this character’s back story builds the main narrative of the book. With every page turn that we are uncovering a little bit more about this man who seems so simple on the surface and yet lives an enormous life underneath that sweet veneer.