Excerpt from The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Blood of Heaven

by Kent Wascom

The Blood of Heaven
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 432 pages
    Jun 2014, 464 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Going to preach those horseless fall days when the grass turned golden and the world had not yet gone dim and brittle, you learned like the wind to go on winding ways from dugout hole to hole, gathering the flock, which at first was no more than a few women and their children.

Midday we would arrive at a bow in a stream that bisected several of the homesteads, unique only in the two large stones set there and the pool of calm water below, which was good for baptizing. It was also used for the holediggers' washing, so soap-fat clung at the reeds and the rocks were draped with drying clothes even on Meeting days. No one could tell where the stones came from, there being no mountains near enough or hills of worthwhile size to yield them. They were storm gray and always warm to the touch on their sunward side, where if you climbed you would catch a rain-dog whiff of sopping clothes. The biggest of the stones Preacher-father would mount and from the top deliver the service.

The first and only regular congregation of his life began with just that smattering of women and children, the men preferring for a while to stay behind to guard their meager holdings. Never mind, he'd say, it's always Eves who come quickest to the call and bring their wailing broods along.

From his perch my father howled against sin with such vehemence that the ears of the frontier women burned red. He danced on his stone and bid them do the same, sang songs self-composed and of the same vigorous roughness in condemnation of the evils of the world and so exultant of the Lord that, though harsh of lyric, they could never be profane. Before long those women caught the fire and danced and sang as best they could to keep up with his furious inventions. And from my place in the lee of the stones my heart went to raunch— to see Emily filled suddenly with the spirit, wheeling and shaking and stomping down the grass with the rest of them. More and more I was called up to preach, but only briefly; and even in those moments I was on her. My words were all for her.

Then, O God, the baptisms. Reveal to me the body of woman in all its shapes and ranges. She may be hard and underfed but a temple nonetheless.

I sorrowed at being put to dunking the little children downstream, and I watched Preacher-father drawing Rachels, Ruths, and Hagars from the water, a miracle of dripping jenny and hind. I'd seen many baptized before and have baptized many since, but to see it then at the worst of my youthful urges was a revelation of clinging wool and sackcloth, of hair to be wrung out on the bank as converts were exhorted into the drink. Emily Fladeboe went, dress ballooning as she stepped down into the water, and was received.

Heavenly father, he said, take this girl close to your heart and keep her, for she has forsaken sin and wickedness. This ewe is washed in the blood of the lamb.

And so she was dipped and came up gasping slick and beautiful, reaching out her hands for someone on the bank to take. My own hand was on a small one's head, holding him under while I lifted my voice to praise when she waded smiling to the bank. And because I was forgetful and forever sneaking looks to where she sat sodden in the cane-break, humming piously with the other women, I more than once withdrew a half-drowned child from the water.

We sent the sisters off full of the spirit, and soon the husbands gave up their guards and followed. By late fall the faithful were wearing out traces in the grass on their way to be cleansed of sin.

The Plague

The locusts appeared first in singles, clumps, and clusters, then in hordes, and your every step sent up clouds of them playing dinnertime fiddles while they chewed, the sound of which was like a thousandtoothed mouth gnawing on and on.

We're thankful, Lord! said Preacher-father to his flock on the first Sunday of the plague while the assembled Chitites swatted at the horde that would soon drive them down into their underground homes. We're thankful even for this!

THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN © 2013 by Kent Wascom; used with the permission of the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Republic of West Florida

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review


Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.