Review for “The Reluctant Jesus”

I must say that I have never written a full-blown review for a book before unless you count product reviews on Amazon.  Putting that aside, I would like to give my opinion about Duncan Whitehead’s new book, “The Reluctant Jesus”.  Let us start with the title character of this work, Seth Miller.  Despite his last name, Seth Miller was raised by Jewish parents.  All his life, he even considered Irma and Ely Miller as his real parents until one day, his mother gives him the true facts of his birth.  As almost any sane person would think, Seth is sure that his parents are in dire need of a rest home.  The use of the first person singular as used in the story helps the author establish a bond of sorts between the reader and Seth.  We are even sympathetic towards him and we are forced to, despite the comic elements, seriously think about whether our own reactions to this sort of situation would be any different.

Harvey, no last name given and is visible to everyone unlike Jimmy Stewart’s friend from the movie of the same name, is the doorman at the building where Seth lives.  He is portrayed as a youngish black man who seems to know everybody’s “business” in the building, but he has a more special interest in Seth.  This interest is compounded by the fact that Harvey is Seth’s guardian angel, but as far as Seth is concerned is just a doorman who “…had never failed to hail a cab for me in less than twenty seconds”.

Mr. Whitehead has written a book with a sense of humor that an atheist should enjoy and, maybe even, an Evangelical Christian.  Most (not all) of the characters are fleshed out in stereotypes, but not in an offensive way, and the use of puns for their names.  His description of God as a somewhat forgetful father figure and Jesus as a jealous and resentful son/stepbrother are very funny.  Mr. Whitehead uses the same sort of literary treatment when it comes to describing Satan (…he prefers to be called “Lucifer” as his son, the Anti-christ, William L.Z. Bubb, or just plain Bill tells everyone).  These descriptions are very funny in and of themselves and are helpful in remembering who is who.

There is one area within this book which tends to be annoying and/or distracting.  Normally, casual readers may not really pay attention to this sort of thing, but for me, and probably more serious readers, it tends to be a minor (or for total book nerds, a major) distraction.  I am, of course, referring to the bane of all writers, (and I am also guilty of this) the bad editing.   Independent writers seem to be plagued with this problem.  I assume that, like me, money may have been a concern, or, also like me, Mr. Whitehead may not be in touch with a very good editor.  Where ever the problem lies, I just hope that it becomes less of a problem in all of Mr. Whitehead’s future works.

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