A wide-eyed redhead finds her true calling as a Christian evangelist in a broken-down town in Southwest Texas
A large redheaded girl from a small East Texas town, Principia Martindale is fairly directionless. But she finds purpose at Hillister Baptist College. Principia was born to be a missionary, she realizes, and her religious fervor wins her a bus ticket to the pathetic West Texas ghost town of Judson, population fifteen. Upon arrival, her days are spent preaching the gospel, baptizing children with premoistened towelettes (water, holy or otherwise, is scarce in Judson), and serving up tortillas as communion wafers.
Judson is a dying town, but it boasts one considerable attraction: the image of Jesus Christ has appeared on a rusted screen door. An ever-increasing stream of pilgrims is arriving daily in tiny Judson, and the travelers find themselves as drawn to Principia as to the apparition. But fame was never part of Principia Martindale’s grand plan. She finds her immortal soul in jeopardy in an ongoing struggle with Satan and his most insidious work: crass boomtown commercialism. Her battle against temptation drives this comic masterpiece from the author of Splendora.
“Edward Swift’s novel . . . is a delectable one. Principia herself would probably call it ‘yummy.’ ” —The New York Times
“Edward Swift has a sharp eye, a sharper ear and moral sense. In [Principia Martindale] he . . . rises to the savae indignatios, the savage indignation of another Swift, surely a distant relative, Jonathan by name.” —The Boston Globe
“Magically textured with an un-intrusive network of symbols, yet ripe and angry too: a funny/sad, acidulous scrutiny of folks whose arms are too short to box God.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This is hot stuff! Everything short of Jesus in polyester shows up in Principia Martindale—a very funny book.” —Rita Mae Brown
“Mockery and pathos mingle in an amusing and bizarre evocation of show-biz evangelism for the happily gullible.” —Publishers Weekly
“The vivid, strong-willed girl [Principia Martindale] becomes a vessel of the Lord and so loses all touch with the temporal. She does nothing but sleep and preach and pray—becoming a schizophrenic, or a saint.” —The Washington Post
“Like a three-ring circus, Southern Baptist style, Edward Swift’s new novel, Principia Martindale, is colorful, intense and comical. Hymns resound as a grand parade of eccentrics, misfits, mountebanks and Bible-thumpers appear on the scene. . . . They behave in such bizarre ways that it is hard to tell the wise from the foolish, or the saved from the damned.” —Newsweek
Edward Swift was born in a small town in East Texas, which has inspired much of his work. His debut novel, Splendora, was published in 1978 and praised by the Houston Chronicle as one of the year’s best comic novels. He has since written six other acclaimed novels and one memoir, My Grandfather’s Finger. Swift currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.