Publication Date: August 13, 2012
In The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode, it’s 1939 and Tobias is a sheltered 19-year-old from Remus, Michigan when his father, a fire and brimstone Baptist preacher, wraps his car around a tree drunk driver and is blinded. In the preacher’s younger days, he was very accomplished and successful musician, but after being kicked in the head by a cow, he found God and buried the money as he could not live with the idea that it had come from evil work. Now disgraced and on the verge of homelessness, Tobias’s father sends him on a mission to travel from Michigan to Texas to find the money he buried. Along the way, Tobias meets up with the reality of living in the 30s from which he’s long been sheltered.
This was a very good book. Set in the depression, infused with humor and full of memorable characters, The Dirty Parts of the Bible was as fun a read as the name implies. In the author’s notes, we learn that his story was based on the ancient Jewish tale of Tobias and Sarah from the Book of Tobit. I’ve never read the story, but find the southern fiction updated setting to be perfectly reminiscent of novels like Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress. Tobias is coming-of-age and into a world, he had only dreamed existed.
Tobias is naïve — extremely naïve. Despite being set 31 years before I was born, the church of his day and the church that my family attended have a lot in common. Music was considered evil, women wearing slacks was considered evil, women cutting their hair was considered evil, dancing was considered evil. There was a lot of things that those of us who attended the church school were sheltered from and never dreamed happened until we went out and sought them out for ourselves — as Tobias did. Had Torode set this novel in any other time period or framed him in any other way, he would have been hard to believe. The reader sits back and says, “No one is that stupid”. Tobias allows a prostitute to steal all of his money and then when her Madame forces her to return the money, he gives it right back to her! No one does that! Tobias does. Tobias is written in such a sweet, charming and innocent way that it’s easy to believe that he would do the sweet, charming, innocent and colossally stupid things he does. We see a change in him throughout the book as he grows and learns to deal with things outside of his previous scope of knowledge.
The Dirty Parts of the Bible is simple, southern fiction. It’s bright, colorful and shines from the page with humor. I don’t want to mislead you; you’ve read this book before. There are 101 books out there just like this one, but for me, Tobias, Crew, the Pastor, Ada, etc. … they all stood out. They were also written to that extra degree that draws you into caring what happens to them.
When all is said and done, I found the ending very contrived and convenient. In the case of the book, the brilliance is truly in the journey. The author, on his profile page, lists one of his favorite authors as Garrison Keillor and it shows in his easy, homespun, style. I really enjoyed this novel a lot and if I owned it as a paperback, it would make my list of “bathtub soaking” books (the precious Kindle never gets near water). Light and fun with some downs but a lot of ups. These are characters you’ll cheer for and hope that they find their way. If you like southern fiction in the style of the classic southern storytellers, this novel is one for you.
The Dirty Parts of the Bible was a semi-finalist for Amazon’s “Breakthrough Novel Award.” Read an excerpt and buy The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode on