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The Dirty Parts of the Bible ~ A Capsule Book Review

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The Dirty Parts of the Bible ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

The time is 1936. Tobias Henry is twenty years old, but sometimes he acts like he’s twelve or thirteen. He’s a Baptist preacher’s son from Michigan who has led an altogether sheltered life. (His one goal in life is to have sexual intercourse with a girl before the “Rapture.”) While Tobias’s pious father spouts scripture whenever it suits him, he skillfully avoids mention of the “dirty parts of the Bible,” namely The Song of Solomon, where breasts are openly and frequently discussed.

When Tobias’s father gets drunk and smashes his car into the church, the Baptists decide they no longer want him to be their preacher. They give him his walking papers; he has sixty days to clear out. The Henry family is about to become destitute. Wait one damn minute, though! Tobias’s father hid a bag of money—a lot of money—in a well in Texas some twenty years earlier. He draws a map where he left the money. If Tobias can go on his own to Texas and find the money and bring it back, the family will be saved.

Right away, Tobias’s trip to Texas doesn’t go as planned. He ends up in a whorehouse in St. Louis, where he has a not-very-pleasant encounter (not a sexual one) with a jaded whore, whose only interest is in stealing Tobias’s money. From that point on, things only get worse. He loses his suitcase, along with the map to find the money, and ends up living the life of a hobo, living in a “Hooverville,” eating “Hoover steaks” (sardines), and riding the rails in boxcars. An old, philosophical hobo with a hook for a hand, named Cornelius McCraw (“Craw” for short), becomes his mentor and protector and teaches him some of the tricks of survival, such as how to catch a catfish when you’re starving and how to run from the law.

Eventually Tobias and Craw make it to Texas and the home of Tobias’s uncle and aunt. The uncle gives them a place to stay and puts them to work but won’t allow Craw into the house because he’s a black man. Tobias meets Sarah, a strange girl who believes (and everybody else believes it, too) that she is under an ancient Indian curse that makes her boyfriends die young.

In a roundabout way, Tobias finds his way to the lost money in the well, but it’s not the lifesaver his family hoped it would be. There’s money forthcoming, however, from another, unexpected source that will keep the Henry family from ending up on the poor farm. More importantly, Tobias discovers love—and sex—with the Texas girl Sarah. “Where did you learn to swear?” Sarah asks Tobias. “From my mother,” he says. “I can’t wait to meet her,” Sarah says.

The Dirty Parts of the Bible, by a writer named Sam Torode, is a too-cute, coming-of-age story with a simplistic plot and predictable characters. What I’m saying is, there’s not much depth here, although it is well written and engaging. It’s light summer reading if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s pleasant, fast, easy reading that will not require you to use your brain. Try not to roll your eyes too much while you’re reading it.

Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp

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