cover image Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands

Tommy Zurhellen. Atticus (Itasca Books, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-9832080-9-9

It’s fun to read Zurhellen’s novel, a sequel to Nazareth, North Dakota, as a roman à clef, since the correspondence to figures of the gospel stories is often not obvious. The point of such a literary exercise is to get the imagination, or re-imagination, going. Zurhellen used his, and dreamed up Sam Davidson, a regular Upper Midwestern guy, who is the son of Roxy, who likes her liquor; the beloved of Daylene Hooker; friend to a group of fishermen from Lake Superior, which really does have Apostle Islands. The loosely woven story has a chronology and chapter title tipoffs: “Sermon on the Mount,” “First Epistle of Paul to the Romans”(which opens with a memo to Poncho S. Pelotti, an IRS official). Readers who don’t know the references will miss some humor. No one can miss the premise with which the book opens, which is both universally timeless and contemporary, theological, and secular: “Forget everything you know about heroes.” Those who know the story will know what happens to charismatic Sam. If Jesus needs new PR, this is one imaginative possibility. (Sept.)