Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars
Jesus' Son, the first collection of stories by Denis Johnson, presents a unique, hallucinatory vision of contemporary American life unmatched in power and immediacy and marks a new level of achievement for this acclaimed writer. In their intensity of perception, their neon-lit evocation of a strange world brought uncomfortably close to our own, the stories in Jesus' Son offer a disturbing yet eerily beautiful portrayal of American loneliness and hope.
I wasn’t sure if I would like this collection of loosely connected stories about a young guy who is addicted to drugs, sometimes homeless, sometimes employed, and occasionally steals. He’s not an especially likable character, but I enjoyed being a part of his thoughts, his views, and his haphazard journey through life. Maybe it's because I have empathy for addicts and others who live on the edge.
This powerful and gripping collection of stories was troubling, intense, and humane. I was overwhelmed by its beautiful language and poignant passages.
One of my favorite stories in this collection is Dirty Wedding, a sad and unsettling little story about abortion, loneliness, heroin addiction, and death.
“The wheels screamed, and all I saw suddenly was everybody’s big ugly shoes. The sound stopped. We passed solitary, wrenching scenes. Through the neighborhoods and past the platforms, I felt the cancelled life dreaming after me. Yes, a ghost. A vestige. Something remaining.”
Beverly Home was sad, a little humorous, and very hopeful. The young narrator finds a part-time job in a nursing home, spies on a Mennonite couple in their bedroom, and begins a life of sobriety.
“All these weirdos, and me getting a little better every day right in the midst of them. I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us.”