A spacey comic fable about the limits of love, even when you have the power of God: Bausch's third novel (On the Way Home, The Lives of Riley Chance) and a likable chronicle of the dissolution of one man's marriage. Charlie Wiggins is a top car-salesman whose wife, Dorothy, is having the protypical American midlife crisis: She's taken up jogging and feminism, gone back to college for a degree in literature, doesn't care anymore to do laundry or cook for Charlie and their two children. It all sounds too familiar, and Charlie's idea of love is so uncomfortably claustrophobic that we don't really like either one of them. But when a stranger named Chet gives Charlie the power of God for one year, the fireworks begin. Charlie soon learns that while he can make himself into a math whiz or even a hero, he can't compel Dorothy to love him: to do so would be the same as creating ``an inflatable doll.'' What's more, his unconscious desires, set loose by his Godhead, can do terrible things-like burn down his in-laws' house. Even resurrection has grotesque consequences. In fact, the job description here for God is so fraught with complexity that it eventually instructs and inspires Charlie. After several comic disasters involving his boss and secretary, he stops trying to design anybody's happiness. He even realizes that his only course is to let his beloved go. This Charlie does, but not before indulging himself with a trick played upon Chet and the Almighty- a paradox that aims to take the tragedy out of human existence. Bausch is an adept ringmaster, with much on his mind concerning the state of the beleaguered institution of marriage. He isn't Tolstoy, but, then, Tolstoy never had to deal with a world quite the same as this.
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