A novel about one young man’s quest for spiritual fulfillment.
“If we lived in a perfect world, that’s what it would be: perfect.” This seemingly simple realization comes to Joe Klempkin only after a great many tribulations. When Bowman’s fast-paced, intriguing debut begins, Joe is at loose ends and “a decision away from being on the street.” Then he begins to have supernatural experiences. First, he’s tempted by a mysterious, threatening apparition, then he has a vision: hordes of people trying and failing to scale a mountain, many of them falling to their doom. A voice asks, “Do you want to be like them?” In order to avoid this fate, Joe embarks on a spiritual quest. Bowman gets this quest off to a gimmicky start—a bookstore clerk tells Joe and his friend Larry that the store doesn’t carry Bibles, for instance—but in a series of swiftly done scenes, Joe and Larry proceed from the mystical figure of Caroline the Prophet to Abigail, who just may be Joe’s one true love (and who tells her listeners, “Faith is believing you can achieve anything you set your mind to—if you don’t give up”). Along the way, Larry acts as counselor and sounding board for Joe’s grasping, inarticulate faith, warning Joe about Satan—“Old Slewfoot,” who “not only lies about everything, but if he convinces you either way, he will turn on you and accuse you for it”—and urging him, “If you believe there is a God, then seek Him.” Through Larry and a succession of other characters, Bowman dramatizes Joe’s becoming familiar with the Bible and gradually coming to understand the nature of his religious belief in time to deal with the real consequences of unbelief. As he tells a doubting character late in the novel: “There really is a hell. I’ve seen it.” In a nicely done concluding act, Joe uses his newfound faith to help him through a personal loss, which Bowman handles with low-key emotion.
An effective Everyman story of finding salvation.