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HOMETOWN ALIEN by John Washinsky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Washinsky’s first novel Hometown Alien is an easy book to read yet one that can be pondered on many levels, especially expanded upon spiritually. Not only are there multiple interconnecting subplots that join the main plot but also historical, scientific, and religious aspects to this story. The primary plot deals with the life of Michael Zemetsky from before his birth—when, in his mother’s womb, he was infiltrated by aliens from outer space—until he grows to manhood. The second plot involves the aliens’ manipulation of Michael’s life and their protection in times of trouble. The story takes place in in the coal mining region of Western Pennsylvania during the 1960s and 1970s, when the Cold War and early, competitive space explorations by the United States and Russia—which comprise the third plot—fill the news. By using different fonts and blank lines in the early chapters to differentiate plots, Washinsky makes the story easy to follow.

Michael Zemetsky is a third generation Ukrainian immigrant, a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian, and a self-named “dork.” Gifted in mathematics and aided by the aliens—or so we are to believe—Michael, whom the aliens call Subject 38, is a brilliant boy but a social outcast. Naturally he wants to be to be liked—accepted by his peers—but this is never easy an easy task for those who think and act differently than the more popular kids. Michael is humiliated when he tries to make both the basketball and the baseball teams. Neither coach helps. Michael’s parents, Matthew and Maria, love him and want him to have a good life, to go to college: an opportunity they never had. They try to support Michael in very way they can, but he keeps many struggles and physical encounters to himself, as many young people do.

No one doubts Michael’s ability as a student, especially in math and science, yet physical and sexual maturation prove doubly challenging for Michael, who once overhears Sophie, a girl he is infatuated with say, “…for him to touch me? Um, no. Yuk.” “You’d need penicillin,” quipped another girl.” (p. 199) They both laugh. Crushed, Michael realizes that Sophie, whom he believed a friend, has only used him to help with her homework. The events in the final chapters come as a surprise—which I will not spoil—but the story and the power behind the story does not surprise. Yes, the aliens are pure fiction, but Michael is truly protected. When “persistent darkness tore at his sanity” (p. 211), he was not in hell as he feared he might be.

Hometown Alien is intended to be read by young people, but anyone who has ever loved a boy—or a girl, for that matter—who marched to the beat of a different drum will benefit from reading John Washinsky’s quick-moving novel. And although Washinsky includes a standard disclaimer—“any resemblance to persons living or dead…”— the truth of the story 9not the events and certainly not the alien encounter) is most likely autobiographical at least in part. How could it not be?

Hometown Alien by John Washinsky
Bituminous Press, Greensboro, NC, 2022

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Today’s Gospel Reading:

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat

to the other side,

a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.

One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.

Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,

“My daughter is at the point of death.

Please, come lay your hands on her

that she may get well and live.”

He went off with him

and a large crowd followed him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.

She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors

and had spent all that she had.

Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.

She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd

and touched his cloak.

She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”

Immediately her flow of blood dried up.

She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,

turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”

But his disciples said to him,

“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,

and yet you ask, Who touched me?”

And he looked around to see who had done it.

The woman, realizing what had happened to her,

approached in fear and trembling.

She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.

Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking,

people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,

“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

Disregarding the message that was reported,

Jesus said to the synagogue official,

“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside

except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,

he caught sight of a commotion,

people weeping and wailing loudly.

So he went in and said to them,

“Why this commotion and weeping?

The child is not dead but asleep.”

And they ridiculed him.

Then he put them all out.

He took along the child’s father and mother

and those who were with him

and entered the room where the child was.

He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”

which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.

At that they were utterly astounded.

He gave strict orders that no one should know this

and said that she should be given something to eat.

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Mark 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,

to the territory of the Gerasenes.

When he got out of the boat,

at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.

The man had been dwelling among the tombs,

and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.

In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,

but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,

and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides

he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.

Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,

he ran up and prostrated himself before him,

crying out in a loud voice,

“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?

I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”

(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)

He asked him, “What is your name?”

He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.”

And he pleaded earnestly with him

not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.

And they pleaded with him,

“Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.”

And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.

The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,

where they were drowned.

The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town

and throughout the countryside.

And people came out to see what had happened.

As they approached Jesus,

they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,

sitting there clothed and in his right mind.

And they were seized with fear.

Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened

to the possessed man and to the swine.

Then they began to beg him to leave their district.

As he was getting into the boat,

the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.

But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,

“Go home to your family and announce to them

all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”

Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis

what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Matthew 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,

and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.

He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you

and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.

Rejoice and be glad,

for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:

“Let us cross to the other side.”

Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.

And other boats were with him.

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,

so that it was already filling up.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.

They woke him and said to him,

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up,

rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”

The wind ceased and there was great calm.

Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?

Do you not yet have faith?”

They were filled with great awe and said to one another,

“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Today’s Gospel reading:

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:

“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;

it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land

and would sleep and rise night and day

and the seed would sprout and grow,

he knows not how.

Of its own accord the land yields fruit,

first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,

for the harvest has come.”

He said,

“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,

or what parable can we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,

is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.

But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants

and puts forth large branches,

so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables

he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.

Without parables he did not speak to them,

but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,

“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket

or under a bed,

and not to be placed on a lampstand?

For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;

nothing is secret except to come to light.

Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”

He also told them, “Take care what you hear.

The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,

and still more will be given to you.

To the one who has, more will be given;

from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Mark 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:

“Go into the whole world

and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;

whoever does not believe will be condemned.

These signs will accompany those who believe:

in my name they will drive out demons,

they will speak new languages.

They will pick up serpents with their hands,

and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.

They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Today’s Gospel reading:

Mark 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.

Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.

A crowd seated around him told him,

“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters

are outside asking for you.”

But he said to them in reply,

“Who are my mother and my brothers?”

And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,

“Here are my mother and my brothers.

For whoever does the will of God

is my brother and sister and mother.”

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus,

“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and

“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,

“How can Satan drive out Satan?

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

And if a house is divided against itself,

that house will not be able to stand.

And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,

he cannot stand;

that is the end of him.

But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property

unless he first ties up the strong man.

Then he can plunder his house.

Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies

that people utter will be forgiven them.

But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit

will never have forgiveness,

but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”

For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

January 2023