THEO'S ODYSSEY by Catherine Clément


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ClÇment now does for world religions what Jostein Gaarder did for philosophy in the popular Sophie’s World (1994): Pack the basics into an informative, thick brochure, weave a story through the ideas, and offer the result as a novel. Less a novel than a course in —religion for dummies,— ClÇment’s mÇlange will be most interesting to those undereducated about other religions or curious to see how she will portray the religions they know best. Generally, the narrative gives balanced, easily digestible presentations of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and most of their variations. The nominal hero is Theo, a terminally ill young Parisian taken by his aunt Martha on a round-the-world trip she and his parents hope will restore his health. Theo’s an intelligent student of computer games, and his travels are engineered as a seek-and-find: he receives clues from various places and over the phone from Fatou, his girlfriend back home. The clues never add up to much, but they do indicate the next stop on the itinerary and are useful to ClÇment as pegs on which to hang more worldviews and histories. The odyssey begins in Jerusalem, where polite Christian, Muslim, and Jewish clerics tell their stories. Then it’s on to Asia, land of the Buddha and the Tao, through Russia, and across the sea to South America. A trip to New York City provides a glimpse of Harlem Baptists and a marriage proposal to Aunt Martha from Brutus, their Brazilian guide. In Greece, Theo’s grandmother asks what the boy has learned. Comparing all spiritual thought to a tree, he answers, —I felt the power of God, I swear to you. It’s just that I found it everywhere——a moral that seems as consequential to Theo’s life as a universal love of puppy dogs and lilacs. A pleasant almanac garnished with enough dialogue and local color to insure its pilgrimage to the shelves where the novels are kept.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55970-499-3
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999