Wednesday, May 18, 2016

East Jesus

Chris Manno
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: White Bird Publications
Date of Publication: March 8, 2016
Number of Pages: 314
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In the summer of 1969, a small town in west Texas prepares to send one of their finest young men off to fight a faraway, controversial war. A parallel battle of domestic violence erupts at home as a younger generation struggles to reconcile older notions of right and wrong and even fractured family ties with the inevitable price that the fighting demands. 
Much like today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Vietnam war is little understood by those left behind, but the lessons of strength, commitment and duty are timeless, then and now. East Jesus, the story of that national struggle today as well as back in 1969, is a plangent, soulful journey lived through the eyes of a wide-ranging, colorful array of characters, with a conclusion readers will never forget.
There's more.  "East Jesus," said one editor, "is a message of hope for our children." Too often, teenagers who've survived a young lifetime of domestic violence believe "this is the hell I was born into, this is the hell I must accept for life." East Jesus turns that notion on its ear: though there's a price to pay, there's a better way that rises above the violence.
The novel is peopled by strong characters, particularly women, in a salt-of-the-earth, small town, west Texas community. The price of a far away, unpopular war always comes due in small town America, then (set in 1969) as well as now (Iraq and Afghanistan). But the lesson of hope, sacrifice and redemption is timeless.
To read East Jesus is to live that story, to transcend the fighting at home and abroad, and to embrace the hope and faith in what's right above all else.
Experience East Jesus, live the story--you'll never forget it.


In East Jesus, a new novel that atmospherically reminds of Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show, Chris Manno tells one of those all too common coming-of-age stories from hell that make you cringe when you hear them.  The one he tells us here takes place way out somewhere past East Jesus, in a little town more properly known as Conroy, Texas.  Conroy is one of those self-contained and isolated little communities where sometimes it it is hard to tell one day from another and where time seems to stand still.

Travis, who attends the local high school and hits the town's same one or two hot spots with his buddies every weekend, lives in a small trailer with his mother, his trucker father, his aunt, and his sister Bean, a little girl who despite her inability to speak is one of the most charismatic characters readers are likely to encounter again any time soon.  Travis's problem, though, is not the size of the trailer or the town he lives in: it's Jesse, his father.  Jesse is not the kind of man who would ever cut a son of his any slack - and he has the fists and the ruthlessness to make Travis pay dearly anytime he fails to please his old man.

Conroy is a typical West Texas town of its day.  People there still believe that America will always win her wars, and they are proud to see their sons go to battle on the country's behalf.  But things are changing so drastically by 1969 that even the patriotic citizens of Conroy are wondering whether their government can be trusted with something as precious as the lives of their sons.  Travis decides that for him the answer to that question is a most definite "no."  But small towns like Conroy do share a number of natural blessings - although, to be sure, some of those blessings, like the one where everyone in town knows pretty much everything about everyone else in town, are mixed blessings at best.  On the one hand, that makes for a nice, multi-generational support group for Travis when it comes to dealing with his father's threats; on the other, it means that Jesse knows pretty much everything Travis gets up to - and intends to make him pay the price accordingly.

East Jesus is one of those books that can come out of nowhere to surprise you with the punch it packs.  Coming of age is harder for some than for others, and it's hardest of all for boys like Travis with fathers who see their sons' maturation more as a personal threat than a passing of the torch to the next generation.  As Travis put it to himself late one night when he spotted a shooting star overhead, "...even a star wish seemed too lame to mend Shirl's broken heart, save Buster's lost brother, protect the Bean, stop the Heart O'Darkness, mangle Lester in a flaming wreck, and still have enough power left to get me and Buster laid."

No, it will take more than wishing on a star to fix all of Travis's problems. Travis, though, is up to the challenge - something his old man is about to learn the hard way.

Chris Manno matriculated from Springfield, Virginia and graduated from VMI in 1977 with a degree in English. He was commissioned in the Air Force and after completing flight training, spent seven years as a squadron pilot in the Pacific at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. He was hired by American Airlines as a pilot in 1985 and was promoted to captain in 1991. He flies today as a Boeing 737 captain on routes all over North America and the Caribbean. He earned a doctorate in residence at Texas Christian University and currently teaches writing at Texas Wesleyan University in addition to flying a full schedule at American Airlines. He lives in Fort Worth.
Each winner gets an author signed copy of East Jesus PLUS 
a free download of Chris's cartoon book #RudeLateNightCartoons 
  May 10 - May 19, 2016
5/10   Texas Book Lover  – Guest Post #1
5/11   Missus Gonzo  – Review

5/12   Country Girl Bookaholic  – Promo

5/13   Forgotten Winds  -- Review

5/14   StoreyBook Reviews     – Excerpt      

5/15   A Novel Reality            – Author Interview #1     

5/16   Book Chase      – Review      

5/17   All for the Love of the Word     – Guest Post #2     

5/18   My Book Fix Blog – Author Interview #2                                      

5/19   Hall Ways BlogReview

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