A funny--though oddly tentative--modern-day parable in which an angel appears and changes the course of an accountant's life. Howard Frobisch, Washington, D.C., accountant, has a vision while visiting Rome in 1978: an angel materializes on the Spanish Steps and warns: ""Do good. Quit messing up."" The recently divorced Howard (whose sole dream is to become that particularly noxious variety of middle-aged, gold-chained swinger common to America of the late 70's) is skeptical of his ability to change, and with good reason. Back home, his excessive love drives his already-alienated daughter, Sima, into the arms of a junkie. And his ex-wife Sadie doesn't exactly appreciate having her faithful old terrier put to sleep (without her knowledge) because the newly altruistic Howard has decided the animal needs to be spared the misery of a sickly old age. As the novel progresses, Howard searches out the meaning of his vision (or the simple truth or falsity of it) in a Benedictine monastery, where the monks all think he's nuts, and in the arms of a hot-blooded Catholic spinster. He finally becomes a true believer when the celestial being stops a bullet aimed at him by Sadie's enraged veterinarian lover, after Howard shows up in the middle of the night seeking a reconciliation. Howard lies in an unfortunate borderland between being a mildly confused nice guy, and a real nerd--he never knows quite what to make of all this, and instead of acting decisively, spends much of his time earnestly (and boringly) puzzling things out. Still, Rochlin's first novel is skillful parody, and at times even reminiscent of the late Tom McHale, that master of layman's theological comedy.