Book Review – Camp Redemption by Raymond L. Atkins

    Camp Redemption
    Raymond L. Atkins
    File Size: 449 KB
    Print Length: 240 pages
    Publisher: Mercer University Press (March 1, 2013)
    Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    Language: English

    Every now and then an author comes along who so vividly portrays a place and it’s people that you believe you are there with them. Laura Lippman does that with Baltimore, Dennis Lehane does that with Boston, and Raymond Atkins does it with Georgia. All three of his books, The Front Porch Prophet, Sorrow Wood, and now Camp Redemption are set in rural areas of Georgia that reflect the idiosyncrasies of the people who live there.

    In this latest book we meet  Ivey and Early Willingham who have started a bible camp on property that has been in their family for generations. This year, registration has not been good. In fact, there have only been ten applications and Early realizes they cannot try to run the camp and lose money. The solution, according to Ivey, who has visions that consist of visits from the beyond, mostly dead relatives, is to help other people.

    Early does not see how opening the camp to needy folks, like Jesus, a teen who ran away from an abusive father, and a bootlegger Hugh Don Monfort, is going to pay any of the bills. However, he has learned from experience not to question the advice from those who have chosen to give it to Ivey in her visions, so he goes along. His going along and honoring Ivey no matter how bizarre her messages can be is one of his most endearing qualities, and in a subtle way, sets up a nice surprise in the end of the story.

    Even though Early honors his sister’s spirituality, he has no tolerence for the hypocrisy, ignorance, and  narrow-mindedness of organized religion. He does not attend the local church with Ivey, although he does take her there every Sunday. Then he goes to visit Hugh Don and they have their own Sunday meeting over a few beers. Every day Ivey prays that Early will stop his sinful ways, but because she loves him, she tolerates those indiscretions.

    The strength of the relationship between these two endearing characters is set up in the very beginning of the story when Early and Ivey are contemplating the handful of camp registrations. Early asks if she has any idea of what they should do about the camp, and Ivey’s response is a quote from scripture “Wait on me, your Lord. Be of good heart and wait on me.”

    Early is used to this from her. As Atkins wrote, “He was fifty-four years of age, and he could remember the latter fourty-five of them fairly clearly most of the time. In that entire span, his sister had encountered very few problems toward which she had not lobbed a Scripture or two, like sacred hand grenades. It was her way.

    “Technically, that wasn’t your idea,” Early noted. “Besides we have been waiting , and my heart is strong. But nothing much has been happening, and my bank account is weak.”

    As the story progresses more people in trouble arrive at Camp Redemption seeking sanctuary. Millie Donovan comes with her children when she loses her home in town. Charnell Jackson, an out-of-luck lawyer who has always had a yen for Ivey, gets in financial trouble and comes to hide out. They are all affected in some way by the Newman’s who covet the land upon which Camp Redemption sits. Gilla Newman and the deacons at the Washed in the Blood and the Fire Rapture Preparation Temple don’t care that Ivey donated the land for their church and paid for their sanctuary. They will do anything to get the rest of her land.

    I highly recommend this book. It is so funny in places I laughed out loud and had to share quips with my husband. However, there is much more to it than the humor. It has tender, poignant moments that almost take your breath away.

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