Jesus Out to Sea: Stories
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai
his 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 (
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 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.
he stories I found most absorbing, though, were
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
who make their lives miserable: In
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.
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.
ll the stories in this collection,
Jesus Out to Sea
, are great reads, and deserve to be perused.
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