cover image A Fine White Dust

A Fine White Dust

Cynthia Rylant. Bradbury Press, $16 (106pp) ISBN 978-0-02-777240-1

Pete is 13 the summer the Preacher Man comes to his small town, vulnerable with both adolescent yearning and the need to find religious fulfillment. His parents are lapsed church-goers, who neither share nor encourage their son's deeper convictions. The Preacher Man, with mesmerizing blue eyes, is a traveling evangelist who holds revivalist meetings in Pete's town that summer; Pete finds in him a companion who can understand his feelings about God without speaking a word. As the Preacher Man takes on Christ-like proportions in his mind, Pete decides to travel with the man when he leaves town. Pete waits for him all night, his bags packed, feeling as if he were called to this journey. But Rufus, his best friend and a confirmed atheist, is the one who tells Pete that the Preacher Man has run off with a woman. A year later, Pete understands that the Preacher Man's fallibility was of this earth, not to be confused with a betrayal by God. Rylant's writing is deceptively simple, creating an emotional whirlpool for the reader that is not unlike Pete's own experience. Her characters are adults and teenagers who are neither good nor bad, but richly, heartbreakingly human. (11-13)