Virtual Book Club This Saturday

Oct 21, 2013

(Updated Nov. 15th)

Here's what book lovers are already tweeting about Snakewoman of Little Egypt:

"Do you know of any actual snake-handling churches in IL? Ever been to a service?"

"Church of the Burning Bush With Signs Following?  (Where did that name come from)?"

"How did come up with the name Thomas Ford University?"

Snakewoman author Robert Hellenga will hold a virtual discussion about his book Saturday starting at 10:00 a.m.

Tweet your questions and comments #readwithWNIJ. You can also post messages on WNIJ's Facebook page (use the hashtag here, too).

Snakewoman has become a favorite of Morning Edition host Dan Klefstad, who selected the book for the 2013 Winter Book Series this December.

You'll find a brief synopsis below.

WNIJ listeners recently got a look into the world of snake handling in Pentecostal churches in Appalachia.

In the NPR story, Preacher Coots says "We sing, we preach, we testify, take up offerings, pray for the sick, everything like everybody else does...Just, every once in a while, snakes are handled." Hellenga paints a similar scene in southern Illinois.

Robert Hellenga is a professor of English at Knox College

Snakewoman of Little Egypt involves a love affair between an anthropologist named Jackson and a woman just released from prison. The woman, Sunny, served six years for attempting to kill her husband, a snake-handling minister. Sunny grew up handling snakes and earned respect among fellow inmates when she wrangled a stray rattler in the prison kitchen. Both main characters are pulled in different directions as Sunny, eager to leave snake handling in her past, enrolls at the university where Jackson teaches. Jackson, on the other hand, follows her estranged husband to southern Illinois to study the religious ecstasy of snake handlers.

We hope you enjoy the book, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts about it. For updates, follow @wnijnews on Twitter, "Like" us on Facebook, and download the new WNIJ App from Apple and Google Play.