“Bedrock Faith” by Eric Charles May

I was making a weekly visit to my local library when I saw a display for “One Book, One Chicago,” a Chicago Public Library invitation to read a selected book. “Bedrock Faith” by Eric Charles May was the 2021 choice and went home in my book bag.

Set in Parkland, a black middle class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, the story begins with the release of Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves from a 14-year prison term. His previous crimes included brutally killing a neighbor’s cat, setting fire to a neighbor’s garage and terrorizing people with a pit bull named “Hitler.” With puzzlement, the community learns that Stew Pot has found religion in prison and turned over a new leaf. As a nod to his conversion, “John the Baptist” is what he calls his new pit bull.

The heart of the novel is Mrs. Motley, a widow who lives next door to Stew Pot and his mother. Novelist May depicts the whole neighborhood through its politics (the mayor is one of Mrs. Motley’s suitors) and its various church denominations (her place of worship is Protestant while another of her suitors, Mr. McTeer, is Catholic).

Stew Pot takes it upon himself to point out the sins of his fellow neighbors from adultery to lust to homosexuality. Charles Dickens comes to mind while reading “Bedrock Faith” with a dollop of John Steinbeck. You will learn about a microcosm of African-American citizens, while recognizing the commonality we all possess.

Eric Charles May, an associate professor of fiction writing at Chicago’s Columbia College and former reporter for the Washington Post, published “Bedrock Faith” as his first novel in 2014. Quoting Dickens in his book, “Oliver Twist,” let me direct this to author May: “Please sir, I want some more.”