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From the author of David and Lisa (1961), and this year's sequel, Lisa and David Today (p. 244), a slender, didactic novel that poses the question: if Christ chose present-day New York City for His Second Coming, would He end up in Bellevue, shot full of Thorazine, having ""therapeutic encounters"" with bored young psychiatrists? Somewhere in the Midwest, a mental patient named Harry, who is in a state institution, is receiving a message in a dream from his ""father,"" God--in essence, Harry is now ""Jesus,"" and he is to bring the Word to the suffering. Like many another hopeful, Jesus hops the bus to New York and deliberately gets himself committed to Bellevue, where he is routinely classified as a paranoid schizophrenic, although his delusions interest a blasÉ shrink named Steiner, who feels Jesus has ""psychiatric charisma""--or is an interesting nut. In any event, Jesus is soon joined by Betty Smith, a formerly-famous actress-turned-bag-lady who is calling herself Mary. Working as a mother-and-son team, they effect apparent cures on several patients, then get their act together and take it on the road--released by Bellevue officials who are skeptical and not a little jealous. Jesus and Mary open a kind of mission in an abandoned off-off-off-Broadway theater and soon have a congregation that includes Dr. Steiner, who has just lost his wife in a car accident. Through a series of dialogues with Jesus, Steiner becomes convinced the man is more than a nut (""If what I say and do are good, does it matter whether or not it is delusional?"") and comes to an actual belief in Jesus when he miraculously finds a small child who has been stolen from her parents. Engaging at first when Rubin, through Jesus, skewers the complacencies of modern-day psychiatrists, but finally static, preachy, and sentimentalized--less a novel than a tract.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1986
Publisher: Macmillan