By: John Prather
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 2021
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
One professor’s off-beat religious research turns into an unexpected adventure when it gets the attention of a small but odd motley crew in John Prather’s The Jesus Nut.
“Dr. Haley Berkshire was a tenured professor of Religious Studies who did not believe in God.” She’s also afraid of flying. Those unequivocal statements are crucial to grasping the length and breadth of this supposed far-fetched tale. Regardless of her religious opinion, her position at the University of Utah requires research—a vital “standing as a major institution.” After much blood, sweat, and tears and assembling a research team, Haley becomes the lead speaker at the annual North American Society of Religious Scholars. During the conference, she reveals that her team had located a new text, “rejected at Nicaea for its depiction of Christ”: The Gospel According to Trevor. While the announcement doesn’t raise many hairs among the scholars, what does attract attention has to do with the team’s interpretation of the Greek translation concerning Christ’s horrific death: The Testicle of Christ, in which one Roman soldier cut off and saved said testicle as a souvenir. That said, Haley’s next plan is to go on sabbatical in search of the lost memento. Her unannounced target? New York City (NYC).
In the meantime, news about her findings gets the attention of two unlikely individuals. Jesse Morales has been living on the streets of Venice Beach in Los Angeles longer than he can remember. Despite his meager existence coupled with a constant downward spiral of events, he believes in his direct connection to God—possibly the Messiah. It’s not until he comes across an article about Haley’s research in the LA Times that he believes God has given him a mission. After researching at a local library, he deduces that “The Testicle of Christ” can only be found in one place: NYC. How he plans to get there with no financial resources, only God knows. In North Seattle at Saint Helen’s Catholic Church, Father Brian William Callum Robert O’Shea finds himself questioning his faith. An article in the Catholic Digest about Haley’s discoveries, followed by his research, brightens his religious perspective. He convinces his parishioners to fund his spiritual quest to none other than NYC. What unfolds is a rollicking journey that defies all journeys leading to spiritual awakening as the Lord “works in mysterious ways.”
Masterful raconteur, John Prather, pulls all the heretical stops in The Jesus Nut. Prather’s book tells the story of three diverse individuals who have no idea how their lives will unfold as they venture into unknown “spiritual” territory. Amid religious quirkiness or the lack thereof, Prather opens each chapter with a verse from The Gospel According to Trevor, first in Greek, followed by its English translation before delving into the plot’s principal characters—Haley, Brian, and Jesse—and development. His highly original storyline is a brilliant mix of belief and balderdash that weaves in an interesting religious and nonreligious cast. Most notables include the Westboro Baptist Church, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, and Kenneth Copland.
Prather’s engaging writing style drips with sarcasm as he keeps his story constantly moving from chapter to chapter, deftly flipping between each character’s backstories. His plot flows from one hilarious ironic situation to another amid unanticipated situations before the trio meets one other in an unlikely event. Prather further draws his readers into his storyline through his true-to-life principal cast that embodies a flurry of relatable human-interest struggles: dysfunctional families, unrealistic expectations of life, rejection, the aftermath of trauma (war), love, hate, and of course, faith, to name a few.
Prather closes with an appendix that includes selected verses from The Gospel of Trevor and a list of Book Club discussion questions. This reviewer’s only thought? “When is The Jesus Nut going to be on Netflix?” The Jesus Nut will keep readers absorbed from beginning to end.
Quill says: The Jesus Nut is the perfect next read for believers and skeptics alike.
For more information on The Jesus Nut, please visit the author's website at: JohnPratherWriter.com