In which a Gordon Gekko-ish sinner is hauled from the slough of despondency by a very helpful Buddy Christ.
Tony Spencer isn’t a bad, bad, bad man, but he’s not a good one, either. He loves women, whiskey and money, not necessarily in that order, and though once in reasonably good standing with the man upstairs, he has drifted into the limbo of not particularly caring one way or the other; in his view, “[l]ife was a violent evolutionary gasp of meaninglessness, the temporary survival of the smartest or most cunning.” Big mistake, for when Tony finds himself in the back of a big screaming ambulance, fate pitches him out on the other side of the universe to face down—well, Dad, or Papa God, as evangelist Young cloyingly calls him. Grandmother is more sympathetic, if a touch elliptical and, well, a bit hippie-ish (“Breathe in, breathe out, be still.”), but Sonny—that is, Christ—is a born explainer, patient and in the main, sympathetic. “Listen carefully, Tony,” He says. “There is only...hear me carefully: there is only one God.” Ah, yes: Straight is the gate and narrow the path—anyone who paid attention in Sunday school knows the drift, but Young’s J.C. rolls right up to the edges of the New Age, without much evident fondness for smiting and such. Young has a very odd sensibility when it comes to spinning descriptions, serving up disturbing metaphors, such as “Winter simply bowed out like a beaten woman” (Why not a beaten man? Because a beaten woman, presumably, is more Pauline.), and odd ethnic observations (“Obviously Anglo-Saxon, a hint of something darker and finer softened his features…”). Even so, this yarn is competently (but no more than competently) spun, if ever so obvious.
If Robert James Waller were to don homespun and ride the circuit, this might be the result. The faithful and literarily forgiving might approve.