An aimless sequel to The Monk Downstairs (2002) begins with the marriage of Mike, the former monk, to Rebecca, his artsy landlady.
It seems things may not bode well for the couple when Mike is late for the wedding—he was off in the woods praying while the full church was waiting—but Rebecca doesn’t seem to mind; she’s just glad he hasn’t backed out of the nuptials. The two are then off to Hawaii for their honeymoon, where they have a fine time, except when they argue. Once they return to San Francisco, Mike tries to find a job—not easy when you’ve spent the past 20 years in monastic contemplation—while Rebecca carries on with her graphic-design business and raising seven-year-old sweetie Mary Martha. Sound rather plotless? It is. The few points of conflict—Mike brings Mary Martha to church (despite Rebecca’s distrust of Catholicism); ex-husband Rory has demolished their kitchen as part of a remodeling (and pot-induced) “surprise”; Mike displays an inability to engage in normal friendships—are resolved quickly. There are a few references to Mike’s kindness, but he, like all the characters, lacks the weight or charisma needed to propel a story dependent on character. The one exception is Rebecca’s mother, Phoebe. Having had a stroke, she begins to falter mentally and physically, until she longs for a peaceful death. There is much Bible-quoting, and it is apparent that Farrington is creating a kind of discourse about the place of God in a secular world. Unfortunately, his conduit for the discussion—the bland, embarrassingly self-centered Mike—is a poor choice. Instead, there is a lot of talk about Phoebe reaching a peace with death, and Rebecca accepting the changes in her life. But it’s relayed in so tepid a tone, that it feels more like approaching sleep than meditation.
Farrington has offered some lively, character-driven fare in the past; this time around is dismal.