The Calling

The Calling

by Cathryn Clinton

View All Available Formats & Editions

"This promising first novel treats questions of religious faith with wisdom, humor, and affection." — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

During the annual family reunion and pie competition at Beulah Land Healing and Holiness Church, twelve-year-old Esther Lea Ridley is suddenly drenched by a baptism of fire. "Esta Lea," she says to


"This promising first novel treats questions of religious faith with wisdom, humor, and affection." — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

During the annual family reunion and pie competition at Beulah Land Healing and Holiness Church, twelve-year-old Esther Lea Ridley is suddenly drenched by a baptism of fire. "Esta Lea," she says to herself, "you are called to the Lord." And so begins her healing crusade from church to church, from revival tent to revival tent, through the backwater towns of South Carolina, traveling with her boy-crazy sister and her newly saved uncle. A bold and hilarious novel, THE CALLING marks Cathryn Clinton’s debut as an outstanding talent in middle-grade fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This promising if uneven first novel starts out sounding like farce, but ends up treating questions of religious faith and practice with wisdom, humor and affection. Set in a small South Carolina town in the early '60s and narrated by 12-year-old Esta Lea, the story begins as Esta Lea who is descended from a long line of preachers has a miraculous vision of Jesus, lays hands on her deaf grandmother and restores her hearing. She is promptly launched on a healing crusade, accompanied by her older sister and her uncle, Peter Earl (newly reformed from a lifetime of shifty practices) and she effects miraculous cures in places like the Lukewarm No More Church. But is Peter Earl stealing the offerings in the collection plates? At first the author uses such broad strokes of color from thick applications of metaphor (Esta Lea and a friend are "tighter than Aunt Phoebe's girdle") to excerpts from fire-and-brimstone-type sermons that it's hard to know what to make of Esta Lea's extraordinary powers or her prophetic dreams. But as readers enter Esta Lea's world, Clinton provides moving insights into the nature of faith and prayer. While these are weighty underpinnings, they neither slow nor overshadow a taut story line. The audience does not need to share Esta Lea's religious beliefs in order to appreciate her conflicts and to become engrossed in her concerns. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The calling came to Esther Leah Ridley at the Jewels Family Reunion, and her life has changed. Twelve-year-old Esta Lea receives the baptism by fire, and discovers that she has the gift for healing. When her Uncle Peter witnesses Esta Lea restoring her grandmother's hearing, he is saved and feels compelled to take Esta Lea and her sweet singing sister, Sarah Louise, on a series of healing revivals. Esta Lea is never happier than when sharing her gift with those who need it, but she is worried about Uncle Peter and Sarah Louise. Why does the offering money disappear when Uncle Peter is around? Because Sarah Louise is determined to get out of small town Beulah Land, who knows what she might do? Esta Lea struggles with her family, her gift, and questions of faith, but realizes that God can use anyone and that sometimes gifts are best used for those you love. This novel might remind readers of Send Me Down a Miracle (Harcourt, 1996/VOYA June 1996) by Han Nolan. At first the writing style and tone appear over the top and exaggerated but soon seem necessary to telling the story and revealing the characters. Junior high girls will enjoy this story about a girl trying to find her place in her own family, but older students will appreciate the humor and the southern feel of this debut novel. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Candlewick, 166p, $15.99. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer: Susan Smith SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
KLIATT - Amanda MacGregor
Twelve-year-old Esther Leah (or Esta Lea, as she is called) is at a family reunion in 1962 when she is called by the Lord. As her father preaches, she feels warmth spread through her and she knows without a doubt that God is speaking to her. Growing up in South Carolina, Esta Lea is surrounded by religious relatives. The family holds its reunions at a church and the biggest honor (other than who baked the best pie) is to be asked to preach. Soon after her calling, Esta Lea discovers she has healing powers when she cures her grandmother's hearing problem. The church elders are certain that Esta Lea has been called to do His work through a healing ministry. She will travel, along with her sister and her recently saved uncle Peter Earl, and heal members of other churches. Esta Lea initially struggles to accept her new role. Peter Earl is enthusiastic about the healing ministry, but maybe not for the right reasons. Esta Lea is uncomfortable with his role and starts to suspect he is stealing from the offering plate. She does appear to genuinely perform miracles (restoring sight to one child and hearing to another), but must decide if she should call off the mission. Esta Lea is charismatic, inquisitive, and perceptive. Clinton's evocative setting and use of language are notable, though poorly developed secondary characters and uneven plotting detract from the story. Still, readers will be charmed by Esta Lea as she finds herself thrust into the spotlight and trying to do the right thing.
Children's Literature
In the southern rural voice of a young teen, perhaps mature beyond her years about people and the hilarious characters in her family, Esta Lea is "called to the Lord," drenched in a baptism of fire. "Then I heard my daddy's words before he ever spoke them¾God dropped them right inside my brain." Not only that, she also receives the healing power, and it is right then, after healing her Nana's deafness, that the crusades begin. Her immediately "saved," shady uncle, Peter Earl, and her boy-crazy sister accompany her from revival tents to churches across backwater towns of South Carolina where she preaches and heals while her uncle steals the offerings. Although we can't quite get into Esta Lea's head and feelings, and the role of, Glorybe, her mother, seems underplayed, the story is unique, humorous and compelling. The potential for a young girl to have a religious calling is a strong theme, emphasized by the use of a relevant passage of scripture at the beginning of each chapter. The message isn't forced, however, and the book should be fun for all to read and simply enjoy a story about an inspired heroine with an unconventional family living in Beulah Land. 2001, Candlewick Press, $15.99. Ages 12 up. Reviewer:Elaine Wick
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-For Esta Lea Ridley, 13, God and family are "twined together like vines in a ditch." These complex relationships are the basis for her humorous, sincere account of faith healing set in South Carolina, 1962. A year after she feels God's call, the teen is as surprised as anyone when she lays hands on her grandmother and cures her deafness. Another miraculous healing follows, and soon she is ordained in the family's Beulah Land Healing and Holiness Church, then sent on a healing ministry. She is accompanied by her older sister, Sarah Louise, and newly converted Uncle Peter Earl Jewels, an Elvis look-alike, traveling salesman, ladies' man, who is their favorite uncle when he's not drunk. His overarching interest in the collection plates concerns Esta Lea. Their ministry is enlivened by women fainting under various stresses, a rowdy bunch of drunken college students, and more. The climax includes a slapstick burial, Peter Earl absconding with the dead man's jewels (punning nicely with the family patronymic), Sarah Louise eloping with a rich college boy, and one more miraculous healing-of the family patriarch. The denouement simply begs for a sequel. Loose ends include best friend Sky and her obstreperous father, the whereabouts of Peter Earl, the future happiness of the newlyweds, and, most fundamentally, the question of miraculous healing versus the possibility of connivance by Peter Earl. A fun, quick-reading, gently provocative narrative.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Southern tale of faith and doubt. In a matter of months, 12-year-old Esta Lea receives a calling to preach and then is anointed with a healing gift. In the same moment that Esta Lea becomes a healer, her rapscallion uncle, Peter Earl, is saved, and in what seems like no time at all, Peter Earl is taking Esta Lea and her angel-voiced sister, Sarah Louise, on a revival tour through nearby communities. This naturally leads to several comic situations in churches with names like Lukewarm No More, as well as Esta Lea's growing conviction that Peter Earl is not so much saved as he is personally interested in the offerings generated at the revival meetings. While Esta Lea's faith in her own messages from God is unassailable, she does wonder why He has chosen such an imperfect vessel, but as she tells her friend Sky, "God can use a person who ain't perfect. God told me that if He could use a donkey, He could use me." The revival tour begins to take over the narrative, to the point that subplots are abandoned: Sky's own faith in the face of her father's brutality is mentioned as an aside and the ambitious, outwardly-yearning Sarah Louise's elopement with a college boy is practically parenthetical. Newcomer Clinton has a good ear for language, but this offering needs some work. For a more cohesive and well-developed exploration of faith in the South, go back to Han Nolan's Send Me Down a Miracle (1996). (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.65(h) x 0.49(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
1 Corinthians 1:26

The calling came to me, Esther Leah Ridley, at the Jewels family reunion. "Esta Lea," I said to myself, "you are called of the Lord."

I was twelve years old. It was August in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and sixty-two. Don’t you just love those words—"the year of our Lord"? Sort of romantic and mysterious. I read them in a book and tucked them in my mind until my calling when I remembered them plain as day. I decided that those words would describe my life from then on. No doubt about it, my years were gonna be the Lord’s, and I’d hope for the romantic and mysterious.

You may not understand how I got a sign from God at a family reunion, but in Beulah Land, South Carolina, where I come from, God, which also means church, and family matter the most. The two are always twined together like vines in a ditch.

You also got to understand our reunions. Food, talk, and beer make up some family reunions, but ours are full of pie competitions, ripe gossip, and long-winded preaching. We hold our reunions at the Beulah Land Healing and Holiness Church.

I heard that some folks play games and such at reunions, but the closest thing we have to a game is horseshoe pitching and outhouse tipping. And those two things aren’t games; they are serious business, depending on where you are standing or sitting.

My sister, Sarah Louise, and I waited all year for the reunion. Finally the day was here. I woke up feeling poorly ’cause we had busted our guts with pies the day before. We got to eat all the pies that didn’t meet my mama’s taste bud tests. "Sarah Louise," I said, "I will never look another pie in the eye for as long as I live."

She groaned, rolled over, grabbed her stomach, and then covered her head with her pillow.

"Come on, y’all, get up. We got to get going. Y’all nearly slept the day away already." Mama’s voice came up the stairs and slid under the door crack.

We went downstairs. Sarah Louise fed Baby Ben, and I fed Elijah, our dog. We didn’t eat any breakfast ourselves.

"Here, y’all, help me load the food into the truck." Mama got up from the table too quicklike and lost her balance. She landed on the floor, and so did the peach pie that was in one hand and the coconut cream pie that was in the other.

Two leaps and one bark later, Elijah was at the pies. He licked those pies like it was his destiny. Some dogs are born hunters. They point with their noses and go rigid when they see a rabbit. Not our Elijah. No sir, he was a born licker. When he smelled a pie baking, his tongue shot straight out his mouth, and then he dropped down and rolled belly up, with his little paws a-flapping.

"All that’s left is the pecan pie," Mama moaned. We all turned and stared at it sitting in the middle of the table. "I guess I’m only entering one contest this year: the pecan pie contest."

Things were not starting out too good, and I’d had such high hopes ’cause this was the day my daddy was asked to preach, and it was a great honor to stand in the pulpit of Jasper Abraham Jewels. My daddy would only get asked to preach once. He didn’t fit two important preaching rules: he wasn’t a regular preacher, and he didn’t directly descend from the line of Jasper Abraham Jewels. Only the directly descended got to preach twice, and only the regular preachers spoke more than twice. My daddy is a Ridley. He just married into the Jewels family.

The Calling. Copyright (c) 2001 Cathryn Clinton. Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA

Meet the Author

Cathryn Clinton spent much of her childhood in various parts of the South. About THE CALLING, her first novel, she says, "Most of the events in this book come from my family history, and Esta Lea simply put them all together in one story."

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >