Lawd, have mercy! What a book!
Ann Allen Shockley’s SAY JESUS AND COME TO ME is mind boggling, to say the least.
Rev. Myrtle Black, a vivacious fiery pastor, is the star of this tempestuous tale. A traveling minister, she sets congregations ablaze with her holy word, then finds a sweet young thing to bed, and disappears almost as soon as she arrives, leaving behind no ties.
When confronted with the stodgy minister at a conservative Nashville church she was invited to, Myrtle finally lays her roots down with an idea brewing: initiate a women’s march against sexism and racism. Spurred by the assault of two local prostitutes, Myrtle quickly gets to action and calls out the male powers-that-be.
In town at the same time is Travis Lee, a famed R&B songstress taking the world by storm. After a rough night with her doggish boyfriend, Travis has her own spiritual revelation–she’s missing the Lord from her life. This leads her to the Rev. Myrtle Black. Seeking the minister’s guidance, the two women become friends and fight a growing attraction.
The novel then becomes a play-by-play of the march’s development. Myrtle finds intelligent allies for her mission, including leaders of feminist and women organizations. After a laborious planning meeting one night, Myrtle and Travis finally act on their lust for one another.
This causes chaos for both women. Myrtle, having been an emotional and physical nomad for the last several years, has to deal with finally falling in love and risking her ministry by coming out as lesbian. Travis has to face her budding spirituality, sexual identity and her adoring public.
A lot of other events ensue in Say Jesus, but the heart of this novel is Myrtle and Travis. All the rest was filler–the march, Travis’ ex, and death threats–added to the story as a backdrop to their love. Shockley’s writing was poetic at times, too wordy at others. Occasionally, you have to plow through her flowery writing, and the love scenes could have been more intense. Yet, Shockley definitely took religion to task and brings the story together, enough to make you praise and shout.
Reviewed August 2005