American Savior: A Novel of Divine Politics

American Savior: A Novel of Divine Politics

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by Roland Merullo
     
 

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In a country divided by partisan politics, into a world torn by hatred and war, at a time when it seems that everyone and no one has a solution to the problems that plague humankind, there suddenly appears someone who can rise above the madness, someone with knowledge and power, someone with a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous—someone, in short, who can make… See more details below

Overview

In a country divided by partisan politics, into a world torn by hatred and war, at a time when it seems that everyone and no one has a solution to the problems that plague humankind, there suddenly appears someone who can rise above the madness, someone with knowledge and power, someone with a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous—someone, in short, who can make it right.

And thus we finally have an answer to the long-simmering question, "What would Jesus do?"

Roland Merullo's novel American Savior posits an inspired "what if" scenario: What if Jesus, alarmed at how the earth's most powerful nation has lost its spiritual footing and dismayed at how His own teachings have been distorted—used by politicians and religious zealots to turn love into hatred and faith into call to arms—returns and announces that he is running for President of the United States? What if He becomes a third-party candidate, is heralded as the Son of God, and not only threatens to disrupt the status quo but poses a serious threat to the already established Democratic and Republican candidates? What would happen? How would the media react? And, more important, how would we react?

Narrated by a more than slightly cynical young TV reporter, American Savior puts the reader inside the campaign waged by what is quickly dubbed the Divinity Party and follows Jesus and his modern-day disciples as they travel across the nation making speeches, reaching out to the people, and in the process arousing the ire of those who believe they know God, and who know, most assuredly, that this is not He.

By turns amusing and heartbreaking, affirming and disturbing, American Savior is a novel sure to create controversy among those for whom self-righteousness is its own religion. Holding up a mirror to our society and the world in which we live, it is a passionate and penetrating look at the America that is and the America that could be.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When Jesus Christ turns up in West Zenith, Mass., Catholics, Jews and atheists unite to help him realize his plan of becoming America's next president in this hilarious novel from Merullo (Breakfast with Buddha). Chief adviser to the "Jesus for America" campaign is Russ Thomas, a cynical TV journalist who sets out to convince the American public that Jesus is the real deal. Jesus' chances of being elected seem slim as he faces skepticism from both ends of the political spectrum over his platform of "kindness and goodness" and the fact that he names his mother as his running mate. But as Jesus hits the campaign trail, Russ and his team begin to have faith in their candidate, themselves and humanity. Most enjoyable are the takedowns of thinly veiled political journalists: there's loud-mouthed, insult-spewing Anne Canter and Bulf Spritzer, "a decent guy [who] can never quite convince the viewer that he isn't ecstatic about being in the limelight." The result is, for the most part, an uproarious satire, hampered only by Merullo's occasional slips into the preachiness about morality that he so harshly mocks. (Aug.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Smart, funny yet dead serious Second Coming novel from Merullo (Breakfast with Buddha, 2007, etc.), who has Jesus offering America spiritual renewal by way of a run for the White House. Russ Thomas is an ambitious TV reporter in a small market, West Zenith, Mass. The 30-year-old narrator has nice hair and a great girlfriend in Zelda, a skilled therapist. His boss Wales, a jaded TV veteran, has Russ investigate a strange event: A boy has fallen off a fire escape, died and been revived by a mysterious stranger. Next, a terminally ill girl in the local hospital is cured by the same stranger's magic touch. The Good Visitor, as Wales dubs him, summons Russ to a cafe rendezvous. He introduces himself as Jesus ("Hay-Zeus, to my Spanish-speaking friends") and explains that he wants Russ and Zelda to quit their jobs and work on his presidential campaign. Somewhat disarmed by this nice but obviously nutty guy's magnetism, cynical Russ has no intention of giving up his paycheck-until down-to-earth Zelda has a vision. That does it, and Russ gives notice, only to discover his boss is already onboard. Russ's Jewish father, Catholic mother and Down syndrome brother also join the inner circle. These ordinary, fallible people will be Jesus's staff. Why pick us, the insecure Russ wonders, but Zelda gets it: "we're all worthy." Merullo grounds his story superbly, understanding that the more we believe in his human characters, the more we'll believe in Jesus, who has his own American background: Caucasian father (deceased), Navajo mother (a quietly reassuring presence) who home-schooled him on the reservation. Is he all-knowing? "I let there be gaps." What is his platform? "I'm running on theBeatitudes." And run he does, indulging in campaign hoopla, but no more miracles, and confronting his fiercest enemies, the Christian Right. Jesus gains in the polls, and Merullo handles the horse race smoothly, but the most riveting element here is the interaction between fearful humanity and this convincing embodiment of divine love. Impressive speculative fiction, and a bracing tonic for an election year. Agent: Marly Rusoff/Marly Rusoff & Associates
From the Publisher

"A divine novelty . . . Jesus is irresistible. . . . The book's gentle satire effectively underscores Merullo's criticism of 21st-century behavior and beliefs."-- Boston Globe

Booklist
"[An] intriguing novel...Funny but in a mostly gentle way...[It] effectively mix[es] elements of Vidal's Messiah and Mailer's The Gospel According to the Son with elements of Joe Klein's Primary Colors."—Booklist
Boston Globe
"A divine novelty . . . Jesus is irresistible. . . . The book's gentle satire effectively underscores Merullo's criticism of 21st-century behavior and beliefs."— Boston Globe

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565126633
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
08/26/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
232,645
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

"I have to say that, on a personal level, I found Jesus to be peculiar and somewhat unpredictable. This troubled me. It also made me think about how we had all come to form an image of him in our minds. If we'd been exposed to the Bible, it was usually only to pieces of the Bible, a few parables, a few key quotes. Added to those pieces were scraps of things we'd heard, paintings by people who had never seen him, and scenes from films. And added to that, I guess, were elements of our own psychology: we wanted Jesus to be a certain way—a savior, a martyr, a pacifist, a radical political figure, a quiet and gentle man of peace, a drinker of wine, a good friend, a guy who could be comfortable around women—because those things made us feel good about him and maybe about ourselves.

But in real life he defied any kind of label. Sitting up there on the bull, he had looked like nothing more than a good ole boy Texan, shoulder muscles bulging, a steely glint in his eye. At other times, he'd move gracefully down the aisle of the jet like a ballet star, or step out of his hotel room in a suit so stylishly tailored that even Wales's wardrobe paled in comparison. Talking to a university crowd he'd use words like segue and ramification, and then, out in the country someplace, he'd be having biscuits and gravy at a diner, looking like the kind of guy who'd tell an off-color joke at the VFW bar or come over the hill riding and ATV and howling the rebel yell.

In another politician, this would have felt like phoniness. In Jesus, somehow it all seemed part of one parcel. The press kept trying to squeeze him into a box: he'd talk about prohibiting assault rifles or sentencing nonviolent drug offenders to counseling instead of jail, and they'd brand him a bleeding-heart liberal who would probably raise taxes; the next week he'd be going on about real threats to American security in the coming years, and the necessity of people doing things for themselves rather than looking for handouts, and all of a sudden he was a right-wing, hard-hearted, so-and-so. What was particularly interesting was that, the more the political analysts tried to push him into one corner or another, the more ordinary voters, the ones who counted, seemed to appreciate that he actually spoke from his heart, without any calculation."

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Amazing, amazing! American Savior is one of the funniest books I've ever read, and also one of the most serious. Roland Merullo has addressed the major issues of our time, politics and religion, with originality, imagination, and a sense of humor, and has given us a whole new way to see the world. Read this book! —Susan Cheever

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