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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Front Porch Prophet - Raymond L. Atkins

If you lived in a small town when you were growing up, or are just redneck enough, you'll know exactly what's going on in this story.

That's what makes The Front Porch Prophet so hilarious and relatable. Author Raymond L. Atkins' subtle implementations of dry humor and unlikely-but-possible situations are what drive this otherwise melancholy perspective on a man's slow battle with cancer while residing in the small town of Sequoyah, Georgia. The story's bulk are the family branches of the slowly succumbing Eugene Purdue, bringing in characters with rich personalities and wonderful side stories. Each character is described throughout the entirety of the book; this includes the local eatery's religious owner, Hoghead (who unintentionally renames the drive-in with a combination of Bible tidbits and dining specials); Estelle Chastain (whose mean little dog meets an unexpected demise by an aerial porch); real estate buyer Truth Hannassey (who finds a love match in Eugene's ex-wife); and deputy Slim (who would freak out if he ever found out about that stolen school bus).

The story is rich and lively, easing the emotional break of Eugene's gradual degradation (even with grenades to ease the boredom). But his familial friend A.J.'s reluctant role as caretaker and possible Grim Reaper shows a tenderness and emotion familiar to many who have lost a loved one. Between Estelle's reckless driving and A.J.'s battle of words with Eugene's dog Rufus lies a story of heartbreak, loss, and emotion. A fantastic read.

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