Kent Wascom’s debut novel “The Blood of Heaven” reads like the slow burn of a Bourbon swallow. The novel crawls the banks of the muddy Mississippi during the early 19th century with a young boy, Angel Woolsack. Wascom tells his tale in a Huckleberry-like fashion, with a slow-drawn language that may not sit well with all readers. Those who have acquired the taste of works like Twain will savor the calescent syntax. The language is that of a young man’s sermon, of a naïve revolutionary, and of the South’s odyssey into statehood under the presidency of founding father Thomas Jefferson. Yet, our aged Angel, reflecting as narrator, assures us in the prologue, “we will never be the shining city on the hill.”
On the Spanish banks of West Florida and beyond, stately men busy themselves by hammering out what will become the states of Louisiana and Florida. While these men plot their politics, Angel grows under the charred wing of a man he must only ever call “Preacher-Father.” His father is a traveling, Evangelical preacher in search of a flock. He is a man who feeds Angel hot coals as a punishment for his sins and asks him, as he chews, to taste “the kernel of Hell at the white of the coal,” and “the cries of the sinners it held.”
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