Ronald Earl is a 16-year old boy who has been a preacher on the tent-revival circuit since he was a child. Known as Little Texas, Ronald has a gift for preaching and faith-healing. After a nearly-dead girl in a blue dress named Lucy is brought to him at a revival Ronald begins to see her everywhere the Church of the Hand stops. The trouble is Lucy shows up in places and at times when she couldn't possibly be there. So what is Lucy, exactly?
Meanwhile Ronald isn't entirely sure he wants to continue preaching, despite his gift for it. He longs to live a life more ordinary with school on the weekdays and church on Sundays. Not to mention he doesn't know how to deal with girls his own age, let alone women. This, combined with the mystery of Lucy come to a head when his guardian Miss Wanda Joy decides that it is time for him to begin his adult ministry by preaching on an island where legend has it the devil swept away the last man to dare hold a revival there.
It took me a while to get into this book, not because I found it to be slow-paced or badly written but rather because I can be a tiny bit neurotic about evangelical Christianity. Once I got over that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book which tells an evangelical Christian ghost story (despite the oxymoron in that statement as aparently evangelical Christians don't believe in ghosts). The main character Ronald is not a stereotype of a devout Christian: while the book is heavy on biblical references, proverbs, psalms, and quotations Ronald is a teenage boy who is tackling some of the same more earthly challenges of growing up. The supporting characters are well-drawn out and memorable; they too are neither sinners nor saints but humans who are faithful though flawed.
I'm not sure how teens will receive this book. If they are like me in their neurosis re: christianity than they may be slightly too prejudiced to continue on and realize how much religion is central to the book and yet the book itself is not meant to be an evangelical tool. While I keep hammering home that a central motif of this book is religion, I think it is more truthful to say that it examines the difference between religion and faith. And I have to ask myself, if the book had been a ghost story of another religious tradition or Christian sect would I have been so bothered by the bible tie-ins?