The Freedom of Will by Ken Clatterbaugh

The Freedom of Will

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A gentle satire about one young man’s quest to find his spiritual identity.

When readers first meet teenager William James Tillit, the unlikely but good-hearted hero of Clatterbaugh’s debut novel, he’s in his bedroom in his aunt and uncle’s house, talking with God. But in Will’s case, God talks back to him directly—and often sarcastically. Will has been living with his aunt and uncle for most of his 19 years, but now, after obtaining a deferred admission to Tulane University, he’ll be traveling from Louisiana to East Texas to take a job working at the Galilee Theme Park run by the Rev. Shister. The prospect of the road trip excites him, although God is more phlegmatic about the whole idea, because Will is eager to experience the larger outside world. But his trip turns out to be far more adventurous than his highest hopes. Clatterbaugh expertly orchestrates a set of sometimes-funny, sometimes-touching, and always thought-provoking predicaments for Will, from attending a glitzy “mega-megachurch” whose motto is “Trust in the Lord—Guaranteed” (God himself is less than impressed) to meeting an agnostic hamster named Ham. Before Will can reach his theme park destination, he’s confronted by ultrazealous, psychotic doomsday preppers and captured by a fundamentalist militia group. As God puts it, the trip “sets a new standard in the broadening horizons department.” Along the way and seamlessly worked into the narrative, Will and his new friends and enemies manage to discuss many debate topics of current Christian theology, always in an energetic, approachable way. Clatterbaugh draws even the most outrageous characters with believable humanity, including God, whose running commentary on Will’s life is the comedic highlight of the book. Christians will love the strange concoction he serves up in these pages, and non-Christians will appreciate the evenhandedness of the many spiritual discussions.

A religious-themed comedy of errors that presents a wry yet ultimately affectionate look at the state of godliness today.

Pub Date: June 24th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4602-8302-8
Page count: 318pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2016