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A Fine White Dust

door Cynthia Rylant

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The visit of the traveling Preacher Man to his small North Carolina town gives new impetus to thirteen-year-old Peter's struggle to reconcile his own deeply felt religious belief with the beliefs and non-beliefs of his family and friends.
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1-5 van 8 worden getoond (volgende | toon alle)
I don't know where to start.
This book was a quick read. On Archive .org, it was available to me for an hour. I fretted that I wouldn't be able to whip through a book that fast, but no, it's under a hundred thirty pages with lots of white space. I finished it in half an hour. I was maybe ten when I first read this, and I remember thinking that fourteen was so old, and thirteen slightly less old. The narrator and protagonist, Pete, is fourteen and explaining what happened last summer when he was thirteen: a traveling Evangelical Christian reverend came to his small North Carolina town. I don't know when the story took place, but it felt like the fifties, maybe early sixties but not really. I tried to look it up and laughed at a goodreads review: that person thinks "religious nutbars" will hate it. How different two people's impressions can be, because -this is straight-up Christian fiction-, in my mind. Pete obviously views Christianity quite positively. That's what this book is about from beginning to end. Hence, Christian fiction. His parents are not practicing Christians, which makes them stand out in their small Christian town. His mom does go to church twice and sits in the back row, but this is done so she can try and figure her son out. Pete's best friend Rufus is an atheist.

Pete calls the reverend Preacher Man, in his mind. He's an unusually charismatic person, and Pete becomes fixated quickly. A pivotal scene in the book that infuriated me when I read this at ten, was Pete being born again and fainting because some traveling guy said so. He's a teenager, I thought then. That's barely old. You haven't lived as a sinner that young, and don't need to be reborn! I didn't know what any of this entailed, so I asked my mom about it. She looked at me incredulously and a little afraid, and I remember immediately forgetting what she said. Now, as an adult, I was sickened by the horrible message the Preacher Man, and by extension, Evangelical Christianity, sent: children are on the same level as adults, are terrible, and need to be born again. LEAVE THEM ALONE YOU ASSHOLES. And what a fuckin' weird ritual, I remember thinking at ten years old, having just discovered the word "fuck." He yells at them, they sweat, they cry, they faint, they wake up and that's it? Literally nothing happened? That's ALL? As an adult: uh, yeah, same thing, only less strong of an emotion. I don't get it. I find Evangelical Christianity to be very creepy, especially since they hate Jewish people, Wiccans, and women.

Hey, I made it this far before mentioning my status as a cult survivor! I felt so gross reading it. Like cold, rotting mud was being poured over my shoulders, neck, and back in repeated bucketfuls. Which, for me, is indicative of a traumatic reaction. The flashbacks were low-to-mid level. It was gross. I hate the sensation, and the sensation will be there. I can acknowledge it now.

The Preacher Man asks Pete to run away with him. EW. I totally missed the implications when I was ten, especially since Pete thought Preacher Man was going to teach him to be an assistant preacher. Something I missed the first time around is it's -Darlene- that the Preacher Man meets first. Pete thinks she's cornered the Preacher Man and is talking his ear off since she's a girl, but Preacher Man is shown to be able to get people to talk. He's grooming them. At the end of the novel, it is Darlene who drives off with him. She's newly eighteen, so there's not a lot that can be done. She returns three weeks later and won't talk about it. Preacher Man tricked a little boy into waiting for hours at night for him, thinking they'd go off together...and leaves with a young woman instead. What a creepy asshole. This was the most haunting part of the book to me as a kid. As an adult, it's a big pile of gross.

What was also incredibly alarming to me as an adult was Preacher Man excitedly explaining that he sometimes sees himself on the same level as Jesus when he preaches. That describes -some people who are having a bipolar manic episode-. It is treatable and there is hope. It requires medicine, not prayer. The book does have a happy ending where Pete is safe, but--it's all just so creepy. And the way Rylant writes about yearning and having one's heart broken after being lied to--it was just as vivid and heart-wrenching to me as an adult. It destroyed me emotionally for days when I was ten. Pete stops going to church as much after the Preacher Man leaves, and he's still friends with Rufus and likes his parents now. It's as calm as a resolution that's going to happen, but just weird after all the heavy emotions that occurred throughout the book.

I gave this one star on Goodreads. I was terrified initially that Evangelist Christians would come for my little account, and I'd be doxxed. I've had it happen on Twitter for less. I dreaded Goodreads recommending me books about Jesus if I gave the book anything above one star. And then I realized, it's more like a star and a half read for me, if that. I feel gross. This book made me feel gross and brought back memories of my time as a member of a group I firmly believe to be a cult. I remember trying to read other books of Rylant's and being so disappointed, at ten. I won't attempt now as an adult. ( )
  iszevthere | Jul 6, 2022 |
A touching, powerful book. In a mere 106 pages, Peter makes the journey from naive "believer" to a more mature spiritual place. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Rylant is just amazing. She's got a lot to say about some intense themes, but she doesn't hit you over the head with it all. Nicely developed characters. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Woefully behind in my goal to read all Newbery medal and honor books, I decided to open the cabinet and complete a few on the list for 2011.

No stranger to writing award-winning books, Rylant hails from the Appalachian mountains and many of her books have a small-town, back woods feel to them. Fundamental religion is part and parcel of Appalachia and while the setting of A Fine White Dust is a tiny town in North Carolina, threads of Rylant's history appear to be woven throughout.

Dealing with teen aged obsessiveness and the need to worship and honor a hero, Rylant creates the character of 13 year old Peter Cassidy who longs for a heavenly relationship with Jesus.

Drawn to religion since he was very young, Peter cannot understand his parents and best friend who do not attend church. When an itinerant preacher sets up shop and holds well-attended revival meetings, Peter is drawn like a moth to the flame.

As the crowds weave together, sweat rolling down their face, arms in the air, chanting their new found freedom from sin, Peter knows he belongs. Honoring God, but primarily worshiping the Preacher man, in a cult like fashion Peter attends each and every revival meeting, fainting at the altar at the feet of the Preacher as he gives his life to Jesus.

Packing his bags, willing to leave behind parents who love him and a solid friendship with a friend named Rufus, Peter agrees to be led like a lamb to follow Preacher man.

When Peter discovers Preacher man is not what he appears to be and that talking and doing are two separate things, Peter faith and spirit are temporarily broken.

While this is not a Newbery book I particularly recommend, I did like the theme of hero worship destroyed and the need to carefully analyze what is required from those we follow. The author creatively examines misplaced loyalty, friendship and family.
  Whisper1 | Nov 22, 2011 |
The visit of the traveling Preacher Man to his small North Carolina town gives new impetus to thirteen-year-old Peter's struggle to reconcile his own deeply felt religious belief with the beliefs and nonbeliefs of his family and friends.
  Lake_Oswego_UCC | Feb 27, 2009 |
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The visit of the traveling Preacher Man to his small North Carolina town gives new impetus to thirteen-year-old Peter's struggle to reconcile his own deeply felt religious belief with the beliefs and non-beliefs of his family and friends.

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