Top critical review
34 people found this helpful
Could do better....
on 19 June 2014
Paul O’Rourke runs a successful New York dental practice, where he makes plenty of money but finds himself alone and without meaning in his life. An atheist, he still yearns for a religious community to be part of. Single and still in love with his ex-girlfriend, he longs to connect with other people but finds himself adrift. Searching for something larger and beyond his day-to-day existence, he soon tires of everything he tries.
Then one day his life is turned upside down when he discovers that he has an online stalker, a mysterious figure who sets up a web site for the practice and opens a Facebook page and a Twitter account in Pauls’ name, and starts to use Paul’s identity to proselytise for an obscure religious sect called the Ulms, the secret descendants of the Amalekites, a lost biblical tribe. Paul is desperate to find out who is doing this to him, and why. What happens next is both unexpected and intriguing.
This original and very funny novel is immensely engaging and thought-provoking. Paul is a wonderful character, and his frustrations with the modern world will strike a chord with many readers. Ferris has an acute ear for the way real people talk, and there are some wonderful passages of dialogue. The descriptions of Paul and his dentistry and the parade of wonderfully sketched in patients who come to consult him are a real joy. And Paul’s own existential quest to find meaning in his life makes him understandable and empathetic. There’s so much that is very good indeed about this quirky and unconventional novel and at first I really loved it.
Unfortunately, it weakens the further on it goes. The biblical part about the Ulms becomes tedious after a while, and some of Paul’s adventures become less believable. There are some sub-plots that don’t integrate well into the novel as a whole, and the inevitable baseball passages (can an American novel get by without referencing baseball?) seem out of place. So by the end I was beginning to skip bits and just wanting to finish. This is a shame, as the book started with so much promise.
However, overall Ferris is a really talented writer and the good just about outweighs the bad in this funny and very different novel of our troubled times. For all my reservations, I heartily recommend it.