Reviewed by Paul H. Yarbrough
It’s difficult to corral a book review around a few hundred words when you have enjoyed almost every last multiple-thousands of them; nevertheless, in a nutshell, the novel, Faster Pastor, by Sharyn McCrumb and Adam Edwards is a wonderful story.
McCrumb has put together a superb yarn and done a masterful job of collaborating with racer and car-guy Edwards to explain much of the racing lingo while pairing it with the vicissitudes of NASCAR’s component parts– racing cars; all of which makes the story work so well.
In the great tradition of Southern writing, coupling the colloquial (“Most folks around here say, whut, not I beg your pardon…”) with the setting, McCrumb has created a cast of characters of whom a Southern Damon Runyan would be proud.
My only criticism is the vast number of pastors (including a solitary woman) included. They are difficult to keep tract of at times, although without the several, it wouldn’t be as workable a story—though toward the end they are listed by starting times so, with God’s mercy, they all come together for final review.
Minor-league racer Camber Berkley opens the story by sailing off the highway into the crowd of funeral mourners who are attending a local racing enthusiast’s (Jimmy Powell) funeral. Berkley was racing his cousin for a spot in a major-league racing event when they raced past the outskirts of the oddly named community, Judas Grove–which has a story of its own.
For his misguided efforts Berkley landed in the local jail. His plea bargain is inescapably tied to the funeral, which he crashed, and he is left to spend the next two weeks under arrest, suffering under a community-service release requiring him to teach nine of the local church pastors how to race. Under the conditions of Powell’s will they must race at the local stock-car track with the winner being awarded the $2 million worth of NASCAR memorabilia Powell has accumulated during his life. Each church has a predisposed target for the moolah.
The pastors are an eclectic group, with some well-known denominations blended with more anomalous brands: The Institute of Angels; Church of the Crystal Path (a mega wannabe); and the church that meets in a laundromat where the services include snake handling–much to Berkley’s chagrin. However to no one’s chagrin, the laundromat church’s pastor and his gifts bode critical at the end. I’ll leave the mystery in the book.
Meanwhile, Berkley’s partner who needs him for a critical bank meeting back home has no idea of where he is, as Berkley has tried to remain incommunicado so no one at NASCAR gets wind of his predicament. Thus, back and forth cryptic text messages flow as Berkley seeks money (he is constantly broke) to pay his court costs.
Berkley’s nemesis throughout the novel is law student and bail bondsman Pajan (Patricia Janis) Mosby, to whom he must stay in constant touch each time he is released to teach the group. The reader is not clear until the second half of the story why Mosby treats Berkley with a touch of wrath. Only after the entrance of a jail-mate, Jesus, whom she covers with sympathy is the reader alerted to the cause of her animosity toward Berkley.
But Jesus’ entrance to the story has no singular purpose. He is a key figure in the mystery that unfolds toward the end. The winner of the race, and the mystery, no small surprise, are foci for the climax.
All in all, McCrumb and Edwards have put together a fun tale. It is humorous, exciting and provides a concise mystery wrinkle. Give the checkered flag to Faster Pastor.
Best known for her Appalachian novels set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer of more than twelve books, including New York Times bestsellers She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket.
Learn more about ARCA driver Adam Edwards : http://www.adamedwards.com/