March 10, 2010
The Book of Eli
(**** 4 stars) Award-Winning Author Makes Literary Departure to Heaven
Sam Moffie, the author of three previous novels, including “No Mad” has written a new kind of novel that takes both familiar and different turns from his previous work. The humor his readers have come to love is here, the quirky characters are familiar; in fact, many are very familiar since they are almost all famous dead people, yet Moffie helps us to see many of those departed sages in a new light. How? Because his main character, Eli Canaan, talks to them in Heaven. But don’t worry. “The Book of Eli” is no deep soul-searching book—well, sort of, but Moffie’s humor saves it from being too serious.
After all, the main character, Eli Canaan, is a good guy who deserves to go to Heaven, but he does have one flaw. He likes sex, and that’s putting it mildly; not that anything is wrong with sex itself, but Eli likes sex so much that he has it multiple times a week with women other than his wife. And that’s where Eli’s journey begins. He dies, or at least thinks he has died, while in the act of committing adultery.
What is Eli’s punishment for adultery? Not only does he get to visit Heaven, but he gets to talk to some interesting people, most of whom readers will know, including Sigmund Freud and Jesus; some of them readers might well anticipate, such as Ayn Rand because she has been mentioned in Moffie’s previous works.
Moffie appears to like the quest or journey motif for his stories. In “No Mad” the title plays on the nomadic wanderings of its main character as he tours America while writing a book. In “The Book of Eli” the main character tours Heaven, realizing God has a purpose for him, although that purpose is not clear until the end; Eli fears he may end up being reincarnated as a cat, but readers are left guessing until the end how it will all turn out. While I felt a bit impatient with wondering what the story was leading up to since the plot was slim, I certainly enjoyed the humorous visits in Heaven with the different historical figures. I trust Moffie’s previous readers will have no problem abandoning themselves to Moffie’s sense of humor and his comical, somewhat satirical look at a Heaven where people stand in line for years just to talk to Jesus or Moses. Best of all was the portrayal of how death changes, or doesn’t change people. The two best examples are Eli’s visits to Madalyn Murray O’Hair and Ayn Rand, both avowed atheists, yet both in Heaven—God does have a sense of humor. The visit to O’Hair alone is funny enough to make the book worth its price.
“The Book of Eli” is shorter than Moffie’s previous novels, but its humor is just as strong. Its purpose may not be quite as focused as his earlier works, but while it is not really philosophical, it raises some interesting questions and provides a few insights into life from a unique and humorous perspective. I wish the results of Eli’s heavenly education had been provided in more detail, but I think most readers will only be disappointed that the book is not longer. Hopefully we won’t have long to wait for Moffie’s next book.
For more information about Sam Moffie and “The Book of Eli,” visit www.samstories.com.
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of the award-winning “Narrow Lives”
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