While The Front Porch Prophet is described as a humorous work of Southern fiction about two young men who come of age in North Georgia, it is at times as serious as a rattlesnake. In those moments, the author does not hold back when it comes to the tough issues of broken relationships, death and dying, divorce and a myriad of other not so pleasant moments along life’s journey.

A.J. Longstreet and his friend Eugene Purdue have been through a lot since their carefree childhood days spent playing football, pulling pranks, and trying to be the first to lose his virginity. The most recent being a dispute over Eugene’s ex-wife, Diane,  that left the friends estranged for several years. Yet, the toughest days are ahead.

The story starts the day Eugene asks A.J to come to his cabin – no easy feat as A.J. has to get past Rufus to get there. Rufus is Eugene’s dog, described as a “cross between a Great Dane and a bear,” and he guards the mountain that is home to Eugene’s cabin.  A.J. does not even attempt the climb without his Louisville slugger.

The point of the visit becomes painfully clear when Eugene tells A.J. the latest news from the doctor. “I have cancer. I’m rotten with it. It’s terminal.”  After that pronouncement, there is a long silence described this way, “His words hung over the clearing like a gas attack over the Argonne. A gentle breeze blew through the branches, but the words would not disappear.”

There is much to enjoy in this wonderful book, and the use of language that is so precise and so evocative is just one aspect. The characters are fascinating, quirky, and they come in and out of the story with ease. The dialogue is some of the best ever written. It is natural, true to each character, and so funny in places readers will be hard pressed to stifle their laughter when finishing the book at work because they couldn’t bear to leave the story at home.

On the flip side of the humor is the very serious matter of death and dying and the fact that Eugene wants A. J. to put him out of his misery at the end. “You must be crazy. If you want to shoot yourself or blow yourself up, go ahead. But leave me out of it.” A.J. felt like he was breathing mud. “I know ten or fifteen people who would be happy to accommodate you. Hell, Diane’s daddy would pay you to let him do it.”

“I’d do it for you.”

For nearly six months, A.J wrestles with that request, and during that time the two men visit weekly and sift through the experiences of their lives and try to make sense of it all. The remembering is as poignant for the reader as it is for the characters.

The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins
ISBN: 978-1933836386
Publisher: Medallion Press
Date of publish: July 1, 2008
Pages: 400
S.R.P.: $25.95

About the author:
Raymond L. Atkins resides in north Georgia with his wife. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His columns appear regularly in The Rome News-Tribune, Memphis Downtowner Magazine, Purple Pros, and Maintenance Technology Magazine. His first novel-The Front Porch Prophet-was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008. His second novel-Sorrow Wood-will be published by Medallion Press in August of 2009. He is currently at work on his third novel.

Maryann Miller   Maryann’s Blog

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