An astute novel that asks us to take seriously the possibility that Harold Peeks, a relatively mild-mannered computer salesman, is in fact the Son of God, as he announces.
Egerton (stories: How Best to Avoid Dying, 2007, etc.) keeps us deftly balanced between two equally plausible possibilities—that Harold is divine and capable of miracles or that he’s an authentic wacko. In accepting an award for Most Improved Sales Analyst, for example, Harold claims that he might indeed have “an unfair advantage since I am Christ, the Son of God. But thank you all the same.” One thing’s for sure—he’s here to challenge the way we live our lives, and no one is more aware of this fact than fellow computer salesman Blake Waterson. At the beginning of the novel, Blake lives a quintessentially American existence—he’s married to Jennifer, a woman he adores, and has an adolescent daughter named Tammy. They have a comfortable life in Houston, and we infer that Blake has never been inspired to question the general rightness of his life. When Harold quits the computer company, he turns to Blake and tells him he should quit as well because it’s not his vocation. While it might be an exaggeration to say that Harold “performs” miracles, they certainly seem to follow in his wake. When Harold decides to make a pilgrimage from Houston to Austin, Blake and a few ragged others follow him. Toward the end of the journey, Blake finds out that Jennifer, who has been estranged from Blake since he unfathomably began believing in Harold, is ill. Blake rushes back to be with her, but when she dies, he begins to question the nature of a universe—and a God—that could let such suffering happen. The story is narrated with consummate skill, moving nimbly from Blake’s narrative, told in retrospect, to documents from the church of “Haroldism” that grow up around its enigmatic founder.
A lively and beautifully crafted novel about the anguish of belief.