Picks and Pans Review: Principia Martindale

updated 03/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Edward Swift

Another approach to religion is made in this novel. The heroine wants to be a missionary. She is so good and smart that it is no surprise when, after her first year in a small Bible college, she achieves her ambition. In a speedy silver vehicle—provided by the Born-Again Independent Bus Company—Principia goes to Judson, a dying West Texas town with only one excuse for surviving: The image of Jesus has appeared on a screen door. The dialogue and names of the characters in the book are marvels of invention:" 'Why, Mary Alaska Ragsdale, shame on you and hush your mouth right now, do you hear me?' said Winkie Kermit. 'What you just said is most certainly not true and you know it. It doesn't matter one bit what kind of mind creates the miracle as long as God has his fingers in on it and it works.' " Swift's first novel, Splendora, was an outrageous comedy of sexual mistakes and a send-up of romantic love. Here, his rural, religious folk are utterly preposterous, yet this is not a frivolous book. The author apparently agrees with a preacher in the story who says, "A little religion never hurt nobody, but a whole lot of it has sure as hell done a mess-a harm." (Harper & Row, $14.95)

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