Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia, where he is an instructor of English at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. His first novelThe Front Porch Prophetwas released in 2008 and was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, Sorrow Wood, was released in 2009.
Camp Redemption: A Novelby Raymond A. Atkins
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Travel to Sequoyah, Georgia, to meet Early and Ivey Willingham. Early is a lifelong underachiever who occasionally smokes marijuana, drinks malt liquor, and watches the world go by. Ivey is a modern day prophet who sees dead relatives and angels in her sleep. Together they own Camp Redemption, a failing Bible camp in the North Georgia mountains. After they are forced to close the camp, Early and Ivey begin to attract a motley collection of people in trouble—Jesús Jimenez, an abused runaway from Apalachicola, Florida; Millie Donovan, with children in tow; Charnell Jackson, an out-of-luck lawyer on the dodge; Isobel Jimenez, Jesús’ mother, and her other children; and Hugh Don Monfort, the local bootlegger. Trouble looms as these travelers settle into their new home. Gilla Newman and the deacons at the Washed in the Blood and the Fire Rapture Preparation Temple covet the camp, and they intend to have it. From that moment forward, nothing is the same at Camp Redemption.
- Mercer University Press
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Raymond L. Atkins is a wonderful storyteller that speaks with a true Southern voice. His books are filled with all the sweet, quirky, funny, and just plain oddball characters that you would meet in any small Southern community. As a woman born and raised and thankfully still living in the Southern Appalachians, I feel like a know these people and each time that I reach the end of one of Mr. Atkins' books, I feel a bit sad to have to say goodbye to the people I have became acquainted with in his stories. These stories give me that peaceful feeling... of a clear, early summer day in the South, sitting on a front porch looking out over the Blue Ridge mountains that I call home, soft breeze blowing. There is a peacefulness to his stories yet they are immensely entertaining. I would suggest his books to anyone. Funny and sweet and all things Southern.
You feel like you are listening to a story teller as you read. The characters are every day people. You can relax as you are carried away with the plot. Read and enjoy.
The book held me entranced since page 1. I have always enjoyed Raymond Atkins stories sine Front Porch Profet, and this story was no different.
I was devouring this book like a third grader would devour an ice cream cone when it dawned on me that the quicker I read, the quicker I would complete it. I immediately slowed down, wanting to remain at Camp Redemption as long as possible. Raymond Atkins has the gift of telling you early what he is going to spend the next 250+ pages detailing and phrasing that glimpse in such a manner that you want to read every word that follows slowly, savoring every moment. Such is the case for his newest novel. I first read Mr. Atkins first novel, The Front Porch Prophet and found it to be the best novel (of 51) I read that year. He shows that his prowess has not diminished in the last two years as he returns to the Northwest Georgia town of Sequoyah and makes the sister and brother team of Ivey and Early Willingham a part of every reader’s family. From the seemingly disconnected forward to the moment when the folks at Camp Redemption left me in the bucolic Willingham Valley, I was enveloped by this strange, delightful, deeply religious, suitably eccentric duo; Ivey’s religion is of the Church going sort, Early’s is of the “more realistic” kind. For the last 30 years, they have run a summer Bible camp in a valley they inherited from their parents. This camp came about after Ivey had a divine vision to do so and Early had nothing else he wanted to do at the time. As it turns out, Ivey has either had Divine visitations all of her life or she has always been psychotic. This year, there will be no Summer Camp as the sagging economy has hit the summer camp market especially hard. Once again, Ivey’s visions give direction, they are to use the camp to “help the needy,” and Jesus will let them know who those in need. Within a week Jes¿s, a 15-year-old Hispanic runaway from Florida, is found asleep in one of the camps recently unused cabins. By the end of the summer, the camp is indeed home to a band of homeless, broken, lonely and outcast individuals who fit the vision given Ivey. The culmination of this gathering is fitting and in line with the “mission” of Camp Redemption. Early is loving, protective and proud of his family, of whom Ivey is the only surviving member; he holds his friends close and, once he decides to not like someone, they are enemies for life. Many of his associates are “peculiar” to say the least. His is the world of the rural, Southern, land-poor gentry. Religion is of huge importance in this culture, and Early is respectful of Ivey’s immersion in a devout, independent, Pentecostal sect; his faith is in Ivey, what he can touch and the knowledge that God is “on his side,” somehow. Mr. Atkins has a distinct Southern voice to his writing. His turn of phrase, world view, tone and “feel” in his writing is the language of my youth. He writes with consistent humor without vulgarity but with a healthy dose of cynicism; is poignant in his ability to see how things are and speak that often painful truth, he is bold in his affirmation that life is worth living fully and with joy. As is true with all books, it must end and this one ends fittingly, albeit with a large surprise. There is some violence, a modicum of profanity, some drug use in the telling of the story. It is a book worth reading, just as Willingham Valley is a great place to visit. This is the third book Mr. Atkins has written of the (fictional) Sequoyah, Georgia, area. I hope it is not the last visit I get to make to this welcome region
When Camp Redemption Bible camp does not get enough campers to continue, things have to change. The delightful characters kept me smiling. Atkins is a great stortteller.