The Jealous Kind: A Novel – James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)
There are authors who bring something to the table that puts them head and shoulders above their writing peers. It is a special something; I won’t call it a gift because I know the ones I would put in this class worked hard to hone the skills that play out in their words.
James Lee Burke is one of those writers. There is an unmatched elegance to Burke’s prose and the way he strings words together that put him in a class all his own. The way the Burke crafts his characters and his stories captures a level of authenticity in place and time that very few have the ability produce.
In his latest, The Jealous Kind, Burke collects the sights, sounds and smells of Korean War era Texas that marks not only the struggle with coming of age, but also the arm wrestling with identity of Aaron Boussard, a teenage high school student who rings like a man out of time, stuck between youth and manhood and who his parents want him to be and who he wants to be.
Like many of Burke’s books, there is a bit of an unrepentant, wild streak to the characters that are in play in The Jealous Kind. He has a clear fondness for the era and locale he drops these folks into that rings through in his words. While so much fiction reads like a throw away, James Lee Burke serves it up in a way to be enjoyed and savored slow and easy. The Jealous Kind easily finds its way onto my list of the Top Five summer reads.