Book review by Roy E. Perry: “Gospel Hour” by T. R. Pearson


Editor’s Note: Roy E. Perry, who wrote book reviews for “The Tennessean” and “Nashville Banner” for thirty years, recently has been exploring the work of Southern literary artist T. R. Pearson. “Underground Nashville” is proud to present Mr. Perry’s latest review.


Mark Twain once wrote, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” T. R. Pearson’s fifth novel, Gospel Hour (1991)—a satirical spoof of fundamentalist/evangelical/faith- healing religion—illustrates this claim in spades.

When lumberjack Donnie Huff’s log skidder launches him over a cliff and turns upside down in the Big Reed creek, Donnie is submerged in the water, turns blue-green, and apparently expires. His boss—enraged at the loss of his rebuilt but still dilapidated John Deere skidder—beats and slaps Donnie, who “comes back to life.”

A “true believer,” Opal Criner, Donnie’s pious mother-in-law, schemes to convince Donnie that his overcoming death is not only a miracle, but also that his “essence” had ascended through the ether into the heavens, reached the heavenly portals, and had a personal chat with the Savior, who laid his fingertips on a downy patch on Donnie’s arm. Opal is one of those people who “can’t be happy until everybody thinks what they think, and everybody does what they do,” a woman who “could likely, on her own, drive the Pope to the devil.”

Opal schools Donnie in thespian techniques and oratorical skills, making him proficient in brandishing and thumping his white, simulated-calfskin Bible. Only half-heartedly convinced of his mystical experiences, Donnie nevertheless testifies at the Laurel Fork Full Gospel Primitive Missionary Holiness Church and, later, in a huge revival tent.

A depressing group of desperate people flock to the tent revival, hoping against hope that touching the downy spot on Donnie’s arm (which had been touched by the Lord) and hearing his testimony would bring relief from the disappointments and hard knocks they had suffered. Challenged by his skeptical, resentful wife Marie, Donnie begins to doubt his “calling,” and admits, “I can’t do nothing for those people, and I don’t want them thinking I can.” And he muses, “Ain’t this world a funny place?”

T. R. Pearson’s best work since his debut novel A Short History of a Small Place, Gospel Hour contains hijinks and chuckles, but a basic sadness pervades the story. I suspect that Mark Twain himself would have enjoyed this tale.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:



David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit:

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit and consider making a financial contribution. Any amount is very helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


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