Calling by Joe Samuel Starnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a free ARC of **Calling** by *Joe Samuel Starnes* from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review. The publisher of this book, *Open Road Media*, caught my attention these past few months because of the high quality of new books they are publishing as well as the republication of some iconic past authors whose work should not be forgotten.
It has been my experience in going to the doctor's office, and yes, even on a bus, that someone who is lonely or just simply obnoxious, will get the seat next to me and begin to talk. I always have a book open in my lap to discourage this, but there are some who refuse to notice that I'm trying to read. I won't answer questions with more than a grunt or ignore the speaker completely, but this never stops the truly determined conversationalist who somehow believes that it's my burning passion to know about and even see an appendix scar, or hear about her daughter's sex life. So, I completely understand the annoyance Timber Goodman feels when Reverend Ezekiel Blizzard Jr gets on the same bus, and immediately begins to tell Timber the story of his life. In fact, Zeke seems to believe it is Timber's obligation to hear this story no mater what he does to discourage the telling of it.
To sweeten the temptation for Timber to listen, Rev Zeke offers him some of his bottle of Jim Beam, and eventually, as we knew it would, this weakens Timber's resolve. Throughout Arizona, Zeke relates the story of his growing up under the strict hand of his father. When Zeke left home, his mother sobbed and was inconsolable; later Zeke came to believe she was afraid to live by herself with her husband. When Zeke came home for Christmas, he was informed that his mother had died 3 weeks prior, and his father was vague on all the details including why he never notified Zeke of her passing. This incident cut Zeke loose from any ties he may have had with his father or the town where he was raised.
While Zeke is relating his story, Timber begins remembering incidents from his own past and begins to see where he and Zeke share a few things in common. Both were raised in strong religious backgrounds, although Zeke became much more involved in the religious life by becoming a minister himself. Timber was more indifferent to the preaching and never had a call to Jesus moment like Zeke did. Yet he knew the kinds of reactions Zeke talked about when he spoke of what religion did for him. The storytelling in this section was first rate. I became more and more interested in where this was going. When Zeke got on the bus, it was obvious he had had some sort of physical encounter because he was wearing all the marks of a struggle or beating. He showed Timber that he carried a Bowie knife with him, and he left no doubt that he knew how to use it.
So, how does a man of God wind up on a bus going across the country with a life story that is beginning to sound far from innocent or religious?
That's where Starnes begins to inform us of more of the truth about both Zeke and Timber. There are surprises in store, and they are somewhat startling given what we think we know about these two men so far. While religion does play a part in both men's lives, it's interesting to see how it's used to rationalize questionable behavior into something a little more palatable or even to squeeze sympathy where it has no place at all. I think **Calling** is about how slick the most moral high ground becomes with the right person calling the shots and keeping the "flock" who look to them for guidance from catching on to what's at stake.
For me, **Calling** had a very satisfying ending. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a well told story with a few ideas to ponder when finished. This book would be a good choice for book clubs.
View all my reviews