Two lawyers attempt to overturn Obamacare on spiritual grounds in this debut novel.
Jerry Riggs is chief counsel to the speaker of the House and, as a Republican, is exasperated with his party’s failure to effectively oppose Obamacare. He’s especially angry at the GOP’s hypocritical complicity: Senate Minority Leader Mack McCormick openly criticized the Affordable Health Care Act but simultaneously ensured its protection from legislative assault in deference to his close ties to the health care industry. But an unusual opportunity to attack Obamacare surfaces when Sebastian Vogel, an old law school classmate of Jerry’s, files a suit against the federal government, requesting a religious exemption from the act’s individual mandate. His argument is a strikingly odd one, not premised on any adherence to institutional religion but instead on a general spirituality that interprets sickness and health as states of consciousness rather than medical conditions: “We’ve mapped out the DNA and found that it doesn’t explain everything….Could that be because there’s a spiritual aspect to disease?” Jerry reluctantly teams up with Vogel—his New-Age conversion strikes the chief counsel as incoherent at first—because he sees a real possibility to strike a blow at an otherwise impregnable law. But when Vogel’s home is set on fire by an arsonist, the stakes become perilously clear—a billion-dollar industry has taken notice and is prepared to kill to protect its profits. Meanwhile, Jerry struggles with his own mounting health problems—overweight and underexercised, he’s developed a serious heart condition that requires surgery, precisely the circumstances that led to his father’s death. Wright inventively combines political intrigue, humor, and philosophical meditation in an unusually policy-wonkish thriller. The author certainly stretches the outer limits of plausibility—and readers’ credulity—but in a way artful enough that the plot never descends into outright absurdity. Vogel’s form of spirituality can be irksomely enigmatic, but he still delivers some memorable insights. The whole narrative is a kind of conservative fantasy—a spiritually inspired but legitimate way to topple Obamacare—so it’s possible those readers unsympathetic to the Republican cause will find it tough to be sensitive to Jerry’s plight.
A witty and refreshingly original political drama.