Salvation on Sand Mountain Salvation on Sand Mountain
Dennis Covington
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Reviews of Salvation on Sand Mountain.
Library Journal:
Fascinated by the religious practice of snake handling, the author, a novelist and writing instuctor at the University of Alabama, relates his association with the Church of Jesus with Signs Following in Scottsboro, Alabama. Working for the New York Times, Covington covered the trial of the church's preacher, who was convicted of attempting to murder his wife with rattlesnakes. Upon discovering this remnant of distinctive Southern culture, the author continues his journalist's involvement with the church, which develops into a personal spiritual journey. Awed by the faith and daring of the followers, he becomes a participant in their peculiar rituals. Although the author's observations and insights are interesting, this book is only marginally informative. For a more complete study, see Thomas Burton's Serpent-Handling Believers (LJ 3/15/93).--Eloise R. Hitchcock, Tennessee Technological Univ. Lib., Cookeville

Lee K. Abbott in The New York Times Book Review:
The author is on a journey both literal and metaphysical, not through a South "straight out of the movies" . . . but into a holiness wonderland populated by descendants of fierce Scots-Irish immigrants, whose only defense against "the bitter reality of an industrialized and secularized society" is the shouting of Scripture and the holding of an arm to the wicked flame of a blowtorch. . . . At every wayside along Mr. Covington's journey are the snakes--those thick, heavy and nasty-tempered beasts taken up by the anointed, the men and women blessed by ecstasy from the Holy Ghost. "Christianity without passion, danger and mystery may not really be Christianity at all," Mr. Covington reminds us. . . . The lessons and insights of [this book] may seem creepy to those who prefer their Jesus to be a "mild-mannered esthete with shampooed hair." Still, it is a book of revelation--brilliant, dire and full of grace.

Publisher's Weekly:
After Covington, a writing instructor at the University of Alabama, novelist (Lizard) and freelance journalist, covered the trial of a preacher convicted of attempting to murder his wife with rattlesnakes, he was invited to attend a snake-handling service in Scottsville, Ala. He found the service exhilarating and unsettling; he felt a kinship with the people, for he was only two generations removed from the hill country of Appalachia. Of Scottish-Irish descent, the handlers are religious mystics who believe in demons, drink strychnine and drape rattlesnakes around their bodies. Covington attended other services with Brother Carl Porter; he eventually handled a huge rattlesnake, and recalls that at the time, he felt absolutely no fear. This is a captivating glimpse of an exotic religious sect. (Jan.)

The Reader's Catalog:
A reporter's investigation of a case of attempted murder (by snake) among fundamentalist Protestants whose services include the handling of poisonous snakes leads to a spiritual reassessment of his life and to his own participation in the snake-handling rites.

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