Back road to Hell

Lacey Anne Byer’s entire life has been spent within the shelter of her small-town Pentecostal church, where her father is the children’s pastor. This 16-year-old really doesn’t mind a 9 p.m. curfew; she’s passive, well-behaved and an exemplary Christian girl who sometimes speaks in tongues—wait, that’s a “private prayer language.” She’s not a fake or a flake; she’s an open-hearted true believer who tries not to judge others, and she’s very excited about the church’s annual Hell House (a Halloween event that uses the consequences of sin to scare young people into conversion). A new boy moves to town to whom Lacey Anne is immediately attracted, and then a close friend becomes pregnant. Lacey Anne’s personal and spiritual journey is interesting because she’s honest about her confusion, her conflict and her love for God. Yes, teenaged evangelicals are conservative; they’re also genuine, and Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners is a fair and compassionate portrayal of their lives.