Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Veteran writer Uris (Exodus; Redemption) begins his 12th novel with a compelling premise: Quinn O'Connell is certain to become America's second Roman Catholic president, except that he discovers, a week before the 2008 election, that he was actually born Jewish. Adopted 60 years ago by a Catholic couple, and newly informed by his long-lost Jewish half-brother of his heritage, O'Connell now asks a difficult question: Is America ready to elect a Jewish president? This initial introduction of the issue of anti-Semitism seems promising. Uris obviously is aiming to put the religion of a world leader in perspective: what does it matter if he's at heart a good and honest man? But then he virtually ignores the theme for the next 300 pages. Even when the national reaction to O'Connell's identity results in epidemic violence against Jewish people across the country, an event compared to Kristallnacht, the national issue that gets the most play in O'Connell's presidential race is gun control. His opponent in the election is Republican incumbent Thornton Tomtree, whose administration is struggling to repair his reputation in the wake of violent national tragedies like the Four Corners Massacre, in which 400 Eagle Scouts and their troop leaders are killed in a catastrophic explosion set off by a drugged-out militia group. O'Connell goes up against the gun lobby and calls for repeal of the Second Amendment as part of his presidential campaign. This issue dominates the bulk of the novel, making the opening and closing sections feel like a cut-and-paste job on a totally different story. Years are dismissed in sentences and events are outlined instead of described. Gun lobbies, neo-Nazi militias and tensions between black and Jewish communities eventually get worked into the plot, as does O'Connell's family history, but Uris's apocalyptic tale is too stylistically scattered to generate much suspense. In fact, readers may think they are reading a miniseries teleplay that hasn't been fully fleshed out. Author tour; 15-city TV satellite tour. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
It's 2008, and the Democratic candidate for the presidency is Jewish--but, as an orphan who was raised Catholic, he doesn't even know it.
Uris takes on a subject bigger than the Irish (Trinity, 1976, and Redemption, 1995), the Jews (Exodus, 1958, and Mitla Pass, 1988), or the Arabs (The Haj, 1984). This time, it's Man himself, of whom Emerson says, "Man is a god in ruins Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise." The Messiah here, a Jewish orphan adopted and raised by a Catholic family, is the great liberal Quinn Patrick O'Connell, now at 60 governor of Colorado and Democratic candidate for president. Sloganeering about the nation's Moral Imperative, O'Connell has grand plans for the rehabilitation of ruined mankind through racial harmony. But he also has problems, including vile barbs from the incumbent president and rival messiah, black-hearted Thornton Tomtree. The time-span covers the last week before the election in 2008, with long flashbacks to WWII and forward. Will Quinn follow in the footsteps of JFK as our second Catholic president? And what is the terrible scandal in his past that may undermine his hopes? If elected, can he rise above riots and bomb-throwing, the blows from armed zealots and rigid fundamentalists whose hatreds divide the nation? Uris himself offers a rather woozy moral message bordering on bombast in a novel that may widen his audience and boost sales, but hardly matches the author's messianic ambitions. .
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Troublesome Mesa, Colorado
A Catholic orphan of sixty years is not apt to forget the day he first learned that he was born Jewish. It would not have been that bombastic an event, except that I am running for the presidency of the United States. The 2008 election is less than a week away.
Earlier in the day, my in-close staff looked at one another around the conference table. We digested the numbers. Not only were we going to win, there was no way we were going to lose. Thank God, none of the staff prematurely uttered the words "Mr. President."
This morning was ten thousand years ago.
I'm Quinn Patrick O'Connell, governor of Colorado and the Democratic candidate for president. The voters know I was adopted through the Catholic bureaucracy by the ranchers Dan and Siobhan O'Connell.
My dad and I were Irish enough, at each other's throats. Thanks to my mom, we all had peace and a large measure of love before he was set down in his grave.
All things being equal, it appeared that I would be the second Roman Catholic president in American history. Unknown to me until earlier this day, I would be the first Jewish president as well.
Nothing compares to the constant melancholy thirst of the orphan to find his birth parents. It is the apparatus that forms us and rules us.
Aye, there was always someone out there, a faceless king and queen in a chilled haze, taunting.
Ben Horowitz, my half brother, had been searching for me, haunted, for over a half century. Today he found me.
Tomorrow at one o'clock Rocky Mountain time I must share my fate with the American people. You haven't heard of Rocky time? Some of thenetworks haven't, either. Lot of space but small market.
The second half of the last century held the years that the Jews became one of the prime forces in American life. Politically, there had been a mess of Jewish congressmen, senators, mayors, and governors of enormous popularity and power. None had won the big enchilada. I suppose the buck stops here.
Had I been elected governor as Alexander Horowitz, I'd have been just as good for my state. However, the discovery of my birth parents a week before the presidential election could well set off a series of tragic events from the darkness where those who will hate me lay in wait.
How do I bring this to you, folks? In the last few hours I have written, "my fellow Americans" twenty-six times, "a funny thing happened to me on the way to Washington" twenty-one times, and "the American people have the right to know" three dozen times. My wastebasket overfloweth.
Don't cry, little Susie, there will be a Christmas tree on the White House lawn.
No, the White House kitchen will not be kosher. My love of Carnegie tongue and pastrami is not of a religious nature.
By presidential decree, the wearing of a yarmulke is optional.
Israel will not become our fifty-first state.
To tell the truth, my countrymen, I simply do not know what this means in my future. O'Connell was a hell of a good governor, but we are in uncharted waters.
I'm getting a little fuzzy. I can see into the bedroom, where Rita is sprawled in the deep part of a power nap. Rita and our bedroom and her attire are all blended with Colorado hush tones, so soft and light in texture. At the ranch Rita liked to wear those full and colorful skirts like a Mexican woman at fiesta. As she lays there a bit rumpled, I can see up her thighs. I'd give my horse and saddle to be able to crawl alongside her. But then, I'd never finish my Washington's farewell to the troops speech.
On the other hand, Rita and I have made the wildest gung-ho love when we were under the deepest stress.
Write your speech, son, you've got to "face the nation" tomorrow, Rocky Mountain time.
Straight narrative, no intertwining B.S. or politicizing. Explain the O'Connell ne Horowitz phenomenon. Truth, baby, truth. At least truth will not come back to haunt you.
Strange, I should be thinking of Greer at this moment. Rita is the most sensual soul mate one could pray for. We have loved one another without compromise for nearly thirty years. Yet, is it possible that Greer is really the love of my life?
I'd have never come this far in the campaign without Greer Little's genius. I would have been tossed into the boneyard of candidates never heard from again. She organized, she raised money, she knew the political operatives, and she masterminded my "miracle" campaign.
I was struck by the realization that Greer would leave soon, and I felt the same kind of agony as when we broke up years before. I had needed to see Greer on some business, and knocked and entered her room. She had been on the bed with Rita, passed-out drunk. Rita had held her and soothed her as though she were a little girl, and Rita had put her finger to her lips to tell me to be quiet.
Well, there was life without Greer, but there could be no life without Rita. Yet it still hurts.
I watch the hours flow in the passageway behind me like the tick of a suppressed bomb about to be released. I am through with a draft. I write another.
As the hours to dawn tick off, it all seems to come down to the same basic questions. Am I telling the truth? Do the American people have the civility and the decency to take the truth and rise with it? A God in Ruins. Copyright © by Leon Uris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.