Select one of the keywords
Jesus Out to Sea: Stories    by James Lee Burke order for
Jesus Out to Sea
by James Lee Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

This collection of James Lee Burke's short stories is an interesting read: Most of the tales are set in Louisiana and Texas, spanning several decades from the mid-twentieth century to stories penned about the conditions in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina (Mist, Jesus Out to Sea). Although these short stories have all been published elsewhere, they present a unified whole, with several including the same characters, Nick Hauser and Charlie Rourke, the narrator (The Molester, The Burning of the Flag, Why Bugsy Siegel Was a Friend of Mine); these boys grew up in suburban Houston in the post-second World War era, making their own entertainment within their community, being bullied by other kids, getting into spats. Burke manages to successfully draw us into the lives of the boys, to feel their despair and regrets, hopes and aspirations.

The stories I found most absorbing, though, were Winter Light and A Season of Regret. In both of these, the central character is a retired academic, living out his retirement in peaceful solitude in the country. Both men, however, come across rednecks who make their lives miserable: In Winter Light we meet Roger Guidry, who lives adjacent to a National Park; as a lover of nature he does not allow his driveway to be used for access to the park, guiding people to other park entrances several kilometres away. However, he gets on the wrong side of a couple of men, who subsequently access the park from his neighbour's property, killing a doe. Roger decides to take revenge, realizing all the while that his fate is now irrevocably tied to the actions of this duo, but unable, for moral reasons, to do anything differently.

A Season of Regret also features a retired professor, and he too falls afoul of some of the country's worst citizens, in this case a trio of bikers. Albert Hollister lives a fairly solitary life, caring for his wife who suffers from Parkinson's disease, and gets into trouble with the bikers when he defends a local waitress from their harassment. The bikers take their revenge on Albert by burning his property, but the local sheriff is unable to arrest the men because there were no witnesses to their actions. Albert knows better and takes matters into his own hands. Again, James Lee Burke scoops us into his crucible of life's inevitabilities, riveting our thoughts, melding us to his protagonists and then spitting the whole out in a tense ending.

All the stories in this collection, Jesus Out to Sea, are great reads, and deserve to be perused.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews