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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Book Review: What in God's Name: A Novel by Simon Rich

Mixed feelings on this title - see full review. :-)
What in God's Name: A Novel
by Simon Rich

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; First Edition first Printing edition (August 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316133736
ISBN-13: 978-0316133739
Genre: Comedy
My Rating: 4.0 of 5.0

Book Description
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Welcome to Heaven, Inc., the grossly mismanaged corporation in the sky. For as long as anyone can remember, the founder and CEO (known in some circles as "God") has been phoning it in. Lately, he's been spending most of his time on the golf course. And when he does show up at work, it's not to resolve wars or end famines, but to Google himself and read what humans have been blogging about him.

When God decides to retire (to pursue his lifelong dream of opening an Asian Fusion restaurant), he also decides to destroy Earth. His employees take the news in stride, except for Craig and Eliza, two underpaid angels in the lowly Department of Miracles. Unlike their boss, Craig and Eliza love their jobs - uncapping city fire hydrants on hot days, revealing lost keys in snow banks - and they refuse to accept that earth is going under.

The angels manage to strike a deal with their boss. He'll call off his Armageddon, if they can solve their toughest miracle yet: getting the two most socially awkward humans on the planet to fall in love. With doomsday fast approaching, and the humans ignoring every chance for happiness thrown their way, Craig and Eliza must move heaven and earth to rescue them - and the rest of us, too.


I do have mixed feelings about this book. I selected it to read as it seemed like a cute premise. However I had some trepidation about the tone of the novel and I should have paid more attention to that intuition.

I appreciated the dedication and drive of both Craig and Eliza, two angels who enjoy making little and big miracles that touch human lives. Although they are both mostly ‘nerdy’, their up- beat characters and their love and concern for human beings are endearing. They are certainly more likeable than the God portrayed by Mr. Simon as a bored executive who cares more about his favorite sports teams, his golf game and checking on his personal ratings then he does about humans and their dangers, sufferings or prayers. Another not so likeable character is Vince who is a rather harsh Arch Angel at God’s right side who sneers at the efforts of Craig and Eliza until they convince him to help them in their effort to save the world.

God has decided to “cancel” earth and open a restaurant. Craig and Eliza discover that God has ignored years of prayer requests that were carefully sorted in priority by Eliza. Craig convinces God to save the world if Craig can perform a miracle that fulfills one of the old prayers. Craig and Eliza have 30 days to bring Sam and Laura together. These two met in college and were attracted to each other but never connected. Now they only live six blocks apart but they are the equivalent of couch potatoes, rarely leaving their homes or socializing with the world outside of their own rooms. Craig and Eliza will have to do their greatest manipulation ever to pull off this miracle.

I have to acknowledge that the book is very funny.  It is also completely sacrilegious.  As I started reading I began to get uncomfortable with the tone and became more and more concerned that there would be little edifying about the book. Considering that I believe in an Amazing God, creator, savior and comforter, I had to feel hurt in my spirit at the portrayal in this book. I struggled through to the end in hopes that there would be a glimmer of redemption. Actually I was a bit calmer by the end as I decided to view the book as I might a complete fantasy.  I do think that there was a light of hope shown at the ending.  Unfortunately, God had little to do with the ultimate outcome and although the angels were the ones behind the positive movements it is not even clear if their influence or chance had the final impact.

I have to give the book a good rating for solid writing and entertaining humor. But I put a warning for other Christians that this one may not be something you want to read as it disappoints the inner spirit.
A discussion between Craig as he introduces Eliza to her new job in the Miracles Department:
{Craig}  "Actually, the truth is...ninety-nine percent of the things that happen to humans are just crazy and random and serve no function whatsoever. ...
{Eliza}   "But the other one percent? Those are miracles, huh?"
Craig nodded.
"Well, hey!" she said. "That's something!"  Page 16
Thank you to Anna for providing this book from Reagan Arthur div of Hachette for review.

I will add this to my ARC and New Author challenge lists.

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