I first heard mention of the book Blue Jesus on WABE back in April. I was intrigued by the storyline, and after waiting eagerly for its release and wrapping up some other reading, I recently finished the book. My anticipation was rewarded.
Blue Jesus is a story of Buddy and Early, two pre-teens living in a small town in the North Georgia mountains. Buddy is a sensitive type, viewed by many as a “sissy” and suffers indignities from his schoolmates because of it. Early belongs to a group of “blue people,” whose skin has a blue tint instead of pink, and live apart from the townspeople as outcasts. Things change for the boys when they find an infant’s body in the town dump. Early picks up the child and appears to bring it back to life. On hearing this, the townspeople hold up Early as a miracle worker, and he and Buddy become instant celebrities.
The story centers on the friendship between the boys. As each boy faces challenges at home and in the community and to their own characters, their mutual loyalty protects and sustains each other, even more than the love and support of family members. Buddy looks after Early’s emotional and physical well-being during the frenzy of his newfound fame, while Early encourages Buddy’s spiritual growth and healing as he deals with the death of his mother.
Early and his family are based on an actual group of blue-skinned people who live in the Appalachian Mountain regions of Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The blue people’s appearance is due to a blood disorder called methemoglobinemia, a hereditary trait. Isolation and intermarriage has kept the trait largely within a single community in the Appalachians. Rather than be viewed and treated as curiosities, the blue people live in apart from general society. Their detachment and the prejudice of the townspeople are a basis of conflict in Blue Jesus. Both of these attitudes are tested when Early’s supernatural abilities are revealed and desired. Early finds a way to use his power to bring the diverse peoples in the town together.
Blue Jesus is the debut novel of Atlanta writer Tom Edwards. The book is not available in CCLS as of this writing, and the only copy in PINES is not yet available for request. The book is available in stores and from online vendors, and is worth seeking out.
This article discusses a brief history of the blue people, methemoglobinemia and the doctor who discovered a cure.