One of the great things about having a Kindle is the Daily Kindle Delivers Deals. This is where a book costs 99p for a 24 hour period. Not only do I like it because it's cheap, but it encourages me to read outside my usual pick of classic literature.
Black Jesus by Simone Felice was one of the ones I bought because it was on offer. The blurb on the website told me it was about a Marine, nicknamed Black Jesus, who has just come back injured from Afghanistan and an unusual dancer who is running away from an abusive boyfriend.
It's a bit of a clichéd salvation romance story, where two isolated and troubled people come together and release each other from their situations. Gloria, the ballet dancer who has had her dreams ruined, flees across an American landscape on the back of a Vespa scooter and finds the junk shop that Black Jesus' mum owns. She comes in and allows blind Black Jesus to have a transcendent moment that allows him to realise that he's always been metaphorically blind and now he has Gloria and can see in a metaphorical but-he's-still-actually-blind sort of sense. It's a little bit twee and suggests that disability, drug dependency and post-traumatic stress disorder can all be solved by a kiss at a creek.
The characters are two dimensional and predictable. Black Jesus is the standard survivor-soldier, who is troubled by what he's seen at war and this can only be solved by drugs or woman; Gloria, the key to salvation and the innocent and hopeful victim; Ross the abusive and controlling boyfriend who has a bizarre mental breakdown. There are a few cameos from music loving transvestites; recorder-playing, drug-abusing hippies and trash-talking drunks to give an 'edgy' reflection of modern American society.
Simone Felice is also a song-writer and this is evident in his writing style. Music and lyrics are a major theme of the book; but it's his metaphors that give the game away. They are short, they sound good, but when you take time to consider them they don't actually mean anything. There were a few passages where I was left wondering what he was going on about. Another thing that annoyed me was a lack of consistency. The narrative was third person but would often slip into the stream of consciousness of one of the characters. This is fine. Virginia Woolf does it, and she does it well. Simone Felice does not. Sometimes the shift is unannounced and confusing, sometimes it's shown by italics, which is also used for lyrics or announcements coming from the radio, or quotation marks. Pick one and stick with it.
Despite all this moaning, I didn't start the book with high expectations, so I wasn't disappointed. It was an easy read, it was fine for a commuting book and I don't miss the 99p I paid for it.