When the Holy Retire: Book Review

19 Feb

Timing is everything, as both Pope Benedict and I discovered last week. The pontiff’s resignation came as a huge surprise, because, like God, Popes are supposed to serve a lifetime. Retirement just isn’t an option.

Pope Benedictus XVI

Pope Benedictus XVI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve written before about the troubles with the Roman Catholic Church and the steps they might take to get back on a moral path. And, I’m afraid we’ll find that there’s certainly much more to Benedict’s decision than failing health and age. In fact, the Pope will remain in the Vatican after he steps down, which provides him legal protection, immunity and security in the face of potential legal action against him.

There is a small sliver of hope that the bishops will make a change and do the right thing – really address the crisis and bring the perpetrators and their accomplices to justice. More likely though, justice will come in the afterlife.

That is, of course, if God himself doesn’t retire too.

The 52 Books Project: Book #2

What in God's NameThis is the premise of Simon Rich’s novel, What in God’s Name. This short, light novel imagines that God is the CEO of Heaven, Inc. (Again, timing is everything! Here’s Bill Keller giving advice for Catholicism Inc. I swear, this is all coincidence.)

God is tired and fed up, so he decides to retire, leaving mankind to, well, death and destruction. The angels who create miracles on Earth will soon be out of a job.

I’d read the reviews of this book before it was released, and absolutely loved the concept. Rich’s org chart for Heaven Inc. includes both the usual and unusual departments one might find in a corporation dedicated to running humankind – Prophet Outreach (where I’d be, of course, as a PR pro), Angel Resources, and – my personal favorite – Snowflake Design.

The story centers around two Angels in the Department of Miracles, desperate to stop the world from ending. In the meantime, God is busy planning his new restaurant. They cut a deal: if the Angels make two earthlings fall in love, God won’t end the world.

The book is best when it’s up in Heaven, roaming the halls of the giant corporation and peeking in on the modern tools God has to keep up on Humans (interactive TV!). Say what you will about God, but at least He has moved into the 21st century. In a move that might seem familiar to some, he even writes a resignation letter.

After much consideration I’ve decided to resign as CEO of Heaven Inc. It’s been a fun ride, but part of being successful is knowing when to quit.

Sound reasoning – and good advice too, I suppose, if he decides to share it with anyone. Right? Oh, and he attached FAQs. It’s a bit more buttoned up in Heaven Inc.

Down on earth, though, the story creeps along. I can’t get too vested in these humans, hapless as they are. And I’d hoped there’d be more “LOL” moments, especially since Rich once wrote for Saturday Night Live.

It’s a fun, ethereal read, though, and you’ll be done with it in 24 hours. I know at least one person who will soon to have extra time on his hands and may want to pick it up.

Next week’s review looks at the evolution of a writer. Lionel Shriver’s The New Republic and We Need to Talk About Kevin, read side-by-side provide some fascinating insight into how a good writer learns to be great.

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