In an altered America, Jose saves
In his best-selling memoir, Father Joe, Tony Hendra expressed the concern that to write a great novel I'll have to get to know some really wicked people. Whether he met those people is unknown, but Hendra has written a new novel about some pretty wicked people and the ways they search for salvation. In The Messiah of Morris Avenue, Hendra draws a funny, frightening portrait of a militantly Christian America, where Hollywood is rechristened Holywood and two enormous churches vie for control of the hearts and minds of American citizens. Meanwhile, Jose Kennedy, a Hispanic man living in the Bronx, begins performing miracles and preaching about the true trinity: the father, the mother and the son. He claims to be the second coming of Jesus, come back to earth to explain all the things he said and did the first time around. Johnny Greco, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose career was ruined by the Reverend Sabbath, spiritual adviser to the president and CEO of fundamentalist Christianity, begins investigating Kennedy for his Internet news job. When Greco meets the enigmatic Kennedy, he is charmed (as readers will be) by the quiet passion of the self-proclaimed prophet, but remains skeptical about his otherworldly origin. The book follows the stories of Greco, Kennedy and Sabbath as their paths cross and the very future of the world hangs in the balance. This story is full of satire and sarcasm, sometimes a little too close to reality to actually be funny. What this book has to say about media, religion and culture is as valid in our society as in Hendra's imagined one. Greco guides us through this story with the clear-eyed skepticism one would expect from a seasoned journalist, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about whether anyone in this tale really got the redemption they were looking for, or if redemption is even possible. And while the ending of this book is inevitable, you'll still want to go along for the ride with Jose's Apostle Posse. Sarah E. White is a freelance writer in Arkansas.