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Jesus Swept by James Alexander Protzman

Diane Kistner:

If you did not like the best-selling book "The Shack," "Jesus Swept" will likely make your head explode! (If you "don't even want to know," move on. There's everything to see here. Including yourself reflected back and back at you.)

Brother Tim:

This is NOT what I would consider a 'religious' book by any means, but does have a deep underlying thread of 'spirituality'. It is an exhilarating read, with intriguing character constructions. Irreverent, cheeky, imaginative, and a tad perverse. It is a humorous, yet tragic tale, that is both rueful and razor-sharp. Read more.

From readers and reviewers

Peggy Payne, Sister India and Revelation

Jesus Swept is a rare accomplishment: the satire is sharp as an Exacto blade, yet the characters become real and lovable. The voices are irreverent, yet the plot leads to sweet redemption. The eye is critical; the philosophy uplifting. This novel is funny and full of growing suspense, dry wit and wild imagination. What a combo! I highly recommend it.

Sara Reed, Street Prophets

A tale about ordinary people who are not doing good or being nice or even having fun – and how things begin to turn when something numinous, something beguiling but not comprehended, enters their lives. Synchronicity, mystery, a bracelet that may be an ancient and holy object, and the appearance of a woman who may or may not be a manifestation of the Divine – all of these play a role in the book and catalyze a shift in direction for all of the characters involved.

And that, I think, is what Jesus Swept is really about. Flawed people living banal and not-too-pleasant existences are touched by something out of this world and they react to it, each in their own way. Some try to be spiritual leaders of a sort, with varying success, while others look within. Their search for meaning does not always satisfy them. And that is a fair picture of how things do happen, in my book.

Bob Geary, The Independent

Jesus Swept has nothing to do with politics, blue or red, unless you think there’s some relationship between the ways people use sex, drugs, money (or the lack of it) and belief in order to make sense of their worlds, on the one hand, and their willingness to let politicians exploit them on the other. But the same qualities that make Protzman a sharp political writer work here in a non-political setting. He calls them as he sees them and stakes out his ground. But it’s always with an understanding that most people are doing the best they can, even when their best isn’t very good at all.

AJ Mayhew

JESUS SWEPT satisfies on many levels. If you’re looking for a laugh, for a new look at old questions, and for an engrossing story, read this book. The cast of characters includes people we often ignore: indigents Mark, Luke, and Gary/aka Jesus, who buy their daily bread with the proceeds earned sweeping store fronts. Doped-up beach bums like angel-tattooed Hook, her angry brother Sinker, and her stalker boyfriend Eddie Junior. These human oddments cross unlikely paths with Liz–Assistant Director of Development at Duke University–and her husband Frank, a misunderstood hypochondriac with a charming devotion to Liz. Early in the novel, I found myself invested in this motley crew, wanting to know how their lives played out. Protzman makes hamburger out of sacred cows, and confronts beliefs about religion and spirituality in a world where we too often judge others by where and how they worship. The story evoked my indignation–I wanted to slap the Marine bully who torments Mark, Luke, and Gary; was intrigued by the ancient bracelet Liz finds in the surf, and empathetic with Frank, almost hoping he would indeed have an illness so that he’d be taken seriously. Dénouement is a challenge for such an intricate novel, but Protzman pulls all the threads together with an ending that left me sad, hopeful, wanting more of his unique point of view, and–most of all–eager to spread the message: “Do good. Be nice. Have fun.”

Vicki Hendricks, Cruel Poetry

Lean, mean, irreverent, and perverse only begin to describe this comic and outrageous satire on Southern archetypes. You could say, Harry Crews meets Christopher Moore in a head-butt! Redneck druggies, false prophet tweakers, a racist Marine, and a university fund-raiser turned telepathic are spiritually entwined in their search for the concise meaning of life. Is it “Do good. Be nice, Have fun.” “Do. Be. Have.” “Do behave.” or “Doobie have.”? The answer will come to you through James Protzman’s clever, fast-paced, and imaginative prose.

Nan Curtis

As I was reading the first part of this book and was progressing substantially through the pages, my husband asked me, “What is that about?” And I had to stop and admit I truly had no idea. Never before had I picked up a book which brought me right into the ordinary chaos of human life to actually experience with the characters the search by the very act of reading itself. It begins in what seems to be a drug-induced aimlessness of the reader’s own. The effect is heightened by the changes in tense which my seventh-grade English teacher’s ghost was protesting at the beginning. But the author uses tense to deal with kairos and chronos, which also echoes the structure of the Gospel of John in the Greek, moving from narrative to enacted scene and back.

Although the frequent use of the f-word rivals that of certain daytime talk shows and the banned substance haze almost makes one want to read on the front porch in the snow to clear one’s own head, increasing pithy humor entices the reader through the pages. From self-proclaimed to nominated and delegated saviors through a dyslexic god and into the Unitarian noninstitution and beyond, religion is not mocked but scripture becomes fulfilled, and the gospel becomes the simple and profound word that it is. One of the most telling moments is John’s baptism which, as a theologically trained person I found one of the most hilarious and amusingly liturgical aspects of the book.
Hopefully this book will go on to receive the national attention it deserves. In the meantime, get the bumper sticker from the author through his facebook page. I intend to get mine.

James Morrow, Towing Jehovah

Chock-a-block with local color and cosmic lunacy, James Alexander Protzman’s first novel is the opposite of a Chinese meal: the prose is lean and the style spare, but this tasty text continues to satisfy long after the last page is turned.

J. David Nichols, Shared Sacrifice

is a laugh out loud look at the sacred and profane, through an engaging human approach to understanding the divine in the everyday lives of an unlikely Jesus, his disciples and those he never meets. With a creative use of word play, an adaptation of the myth of how “Jesus” comes to be, and a multifaceted critique of both the absurdity of modern religion and the crassness of today’s society – Protzman takes the reader on a satisfying journey of self awareness through the disparate lives of his humanely crafted characters. The book’s unflinching willingness to present its character messengers, warts and all, makes the bumper sticker theme of “Do Good. Be Nice. Have Fun.”, that much easier to understand that life is a journey, whose destination is the “sweetspot” at the nexus of the three.

From Foxtrot at BlueNC
Jesus Swept is a satire that plays on us not just from a religious perspective, which I can see is there, but from a philosophical perspective. Anyone that reads it can identify with one of the characters there. I had a tough time initially following what this book was about, to be honest, then as I read further, realized that James is using humor/satire/factual information to get us to think about not only ourselves, but further. It didn’t seem particularly political in nature, in my opinion, but maybe I missed that. I mean, hey, James is nothing if not political, right? Just my take. Enjoyed it and so would anyone that reads it.

Do good, be nice, have fun.

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