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5.0 out of 5 stars The Humanity of god, the Inhumanity of Man
"The Universe was a PhD thesis that God was unable to successfully defend." (p. 212)
If God is the Eternal Light, then why do His children live in such darkness? James Morrow wrestles with the age-old challenge of theodicy--how can an all-Good and all-Powerful Deity allow a world with suffering? His vehicle in this excursion is God's daughter, a fertilized...
Published on Sept. 26 2001 by Elderbear

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2.0 out of 5 stars A second coming story without a purpose
Much like Neal Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, Only Begotten Daughter left me nonplussed. The sense of humor (other than some assorted wordplay) didn't work for me, and what could have been a wry and subtle story about a divine young woman trying to find her purpose in life takes a horribly wrong turn when the devil himself shows up and proves to be working to...
Published on June 9 2002 by Michael Rawdon


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4.0 out of 5 stars For God so loved the world...., Nov. 21 2003
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This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Hardcover)
For God so loved the world that She gave her only begotten daughter.... to save us from ourselves
Only Begotten Daughter: Good book. Thought provoking. I'm not Christian, so I can approach Christ and Jehovah as I would approach any other mythology.
Let's play What If.....
What if... the "Second Coming" wasn't meant to be Jesus returning, but was meant to mean God's second child being born.
What if... everyone missed it because the child was female... and of course, the returning Son of God couldn't be female.
What if... her "purpose" in returning was to say "Hey, y'all need to get a life and stop worshiping the past. Live in today. My brother didn't give his life just so the bunch of you could refuse to acknowledge the world around you."
Water into wine? Forget it, it's been done. This chick changes gasoline into milk.
Morrow does an excellent job of describing what growing up must be like for the child of a major deity. Walk on water? Never, the neighbors might see. The love of an over-protective parent, wondering why God allows things to happen, why He never speaks to His own child... all normal occurences for God's daughter.
In some ways, Morrow is more realistic about his characters than the common belief about them is. He portrays Jesus, not sitting on a throne in the heaven to which he ascended, but offering water to the burning souls in hell. Helping the people after death that he cared for in life, according to the stories written down by his followers. Hell is run by bureaucrats (naturally... there's enough of them there), and Satan has been squeezed into a mere figurehead (much like the Queen of England). Oddly enough, he smells like oranges.
In other ways, he relies on stereotypes. Julie's human parent, for example, draws heavily on the stereotype of the scholarly Jew. The antagonists - a group of religious extremists - are drawn from newspaper stories of abortion clinic protesters and Bible Belt Religious Rightists.
In a less serious critique, I find it amusing that Julie finally finds her place in Philadelphia. I've lived in Philadelphia, and I find it difficult that anyone would find there place in that city without having family members there (one could argue that in theory, God is everywhere, and therefore in Philly, too. I don't buy it.) OR by living there for a minimum of 10 years. No seriously, the City of Brotherly Love is only loving if you've been in the community for a serious amount of time.
Read the book. It's good. It's worth it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A second coming story without a purpose, June 9 2002
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
Much like Neal Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, Only Begotten Daughter left me nonplussed. The sense of humor (other than some assorted wordplay) didn't work for me, and what could have been a wry and subtle story about a divine young woman trying to find her purpose in life takes a horribly wrong turn when the devil himself shows up and proves to be working to use her for his own purposes. Morrow uses the set-up to poke some fun at Christianity, and is sometimes entertaining when he does so, but often the story is muddled.
The first third of the book is best, with child-of-god Julie Katz growing up in New Jersey with her Jewish father, lesbian almost-stepmother, and best friend. Thing go downhill in the middle third, when the adult Julie tries to figure out how to help people, and gets caught up in a web spun by Satan to create a new church. Julie makes some decisions which I just didn't buy about her character, and spends the last third of the book trying to make sense of what her earlier actions created: A fairly standard religious dystopia.
Though Morrow has clearly researched his source material deeply, he has trouble getting to the heart of his characters (Julie is, at best, something of a cipher), and his story isn't particularly effective. The strange "moral" of the story seems to be: If people are chastising you for not reaching your full potential, then lower your potential. Morrow doesn't seem to grasp the irony of this lesson, and the book ends up feeling profoundly unfulfilling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Humanity of god, the Inhumanity of Man, Sept. 26 2001
By 
Elderbear (Loma Linda, Aztlan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
"The Universe was a PhD thesis that God was unable to successfully defend." (p. 212)
If God is the Eternal Light, then why do His children live in such darkness? James Morrow wrestles with the age-old challenge of theodicy--how can an all-Good and all-Powerful Deity allow a world with suffering? His vehicle in this excursion is God's daughter, a fertilized ovum found in a male sperm donation, and brought to term in an artificial uterus.
The world is indeed a dark place, and Julie Katz, (That's "Miss God" to you!) seems to find herself in some of the darkest corners. Why is God so distant? Why are miracles so useless?
Religious fanatics and Devout Believers in Scientism both show up in bad form in this book. If you're an existentialist with a dark sense of humor, you'll love reading this. If you're a devout, evangelical Christian, I suspect you won't have as much fun.
Morrow writes well, he dares to tread on the teats of many a sacred cow, and he does so exquisitely well. For those who find their understanding of God and religion offended, I offer you this quote from Julie Katz "If somebody kick your right buttock, turn the other cheek." (p. 260)
Although the characters are somewhat charicaturish, they each have their own depth, motivation, and occasionally act to surprise the reader. The leading characters are more archetypal than human, and that is part of the book's power.
Morrow gets five stars for a solid, well engineered plot. Five stars for characters who live beyond the pages of the books & occasionally drift into our dreams. Five more stars for telling it well, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Courage. Morrow gets about five billion stars for courage--after all, he's insulted every fundamentalist this side of Venus. Once Jerry Falwell gets done blaming the gays, pagans, ACLU & secular humanists for the World Trade Center disaster, he's likely to call for a Jihad against Morrow!
(If you'd like to respond to this review or discuss the book, please click on the "about me" link above and drop me an email. Thanks!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars God for grown-ups, Aug. 24 2001
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
This is the most loving, incisive, courageous view of god I've encountered in 25 years of study in comparative religion and comparative mythology, as well as in 20 years as a minister. I won't repeat the book's plot structure, whose major details other reviewers have already given. Morrow's gift is to grapple with difficult issues that the world's leading religions don't like to touch, because they're messy and there are no pat answers: --What is the nature of divinity, and how can it act in the world? --Why does god allow suffering? Why do people cause it? --How do we account for the fact that so many of god's most rabid followers seem to be the most violent, maladjusted, and lost people, motivated by fear and despising the wonderful gifts of life on earth? --What is the nature of god and heaven, "the devil" and hell? --What would Jesus think about all this? --How can a woman claim her divinity in a world stocked with people who demonize everything feminine--including love, embodiment, compassion, and women themselves? --How is it possible to survive in a world largely inhabited by frightened, tiny-minded people who create a god in their own image, who project their worst weaknesses and tendencies onto "him," and who are closed to feeling or thinking, handing themselves over to being led by wiggy neurotics or violent psychotics? (After all, throughout religious history it seems to be highly religious people who do the most persecuting, create the most grief for other people, and hate the world that they claim god created.) --What would a mature spirituality look like--one grown past the father complexes and adolescent viewpoints of fundamentalism? What amazes me about this book (I'm currently reading it for the sixth time, with even more pleasure than the first time) is how easily and naturally Morrow tells the story. And with what deft detail, humor, and observation of the problem of religion in a secular society. In my experience, that's a sign of spiritual maturity (particularly the humor). I agree with the reviewer who observed that Morrow is probably lucky that this book got pigeon-holed as science fiction. I have never understood the concept of "heresy"--it seems to me the very word evokes moral and spiritual cowardice and contempt for god's love and tolerance--so when people say this is a heretical book, I can't follow that. This is a courageous book, full of love, tolerance, and clarity of heart. A term like "heresy" isn't on the radar. OBD is, for me, a myth of power, heart, and wisdom up there with some of the great myths of the human psyche. I think in particular of the ancient stories of the descent of the deity Inanna into the underworld. Yet Morrow goes even further than that. For me, this book blew open the gates of the new millennium, and gave me heart to consider that perhaps the human spirit is open to growing past the inherited fundamentalism of the past. We have much growing and maturing to do as a species. We resist taking responsibility as stewards of this earth, each other, and ourselves. That's unlikely to happen so long as we remain tethered in spirit to our image of a distant, inaccessible, violent father god with an apparent bipolar disorder, who holds us in contempt, is motivated by punishment and pleased by syncophancy, and communicates (we are told) through the mistranslated myths of Near Eastern desert tribes of two to six thousand years ago, now published in the form of a book edited by Renaissance churchmen and others who hold life on earth in contempt. Morrow asks us to drop our nostalgia and our adolescent view of god for something living, breathing, and grown up. That work of a living, breathing, grown up, creative relationship with god is a far cry from the dead, literalist fundamentalism that poses as religion, rather than some new approaches to using fear and the mass media to wring money out of frightened, hurting people. Eliot
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Second Coming - with quite a twist, Feb. 15 2001
By 
E. Tobias "Safety_Queen" (Minneaoplis, Minn., USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
A story about the Second Coming - similarly to the First one, God's child arrives with a virgin birth to a Jew. However, this time a daughter is born to a Jewish man, who is a lighthouse keeper in New Jersey, and the "Babylon" of this story is Atlantic City, NJ.
This has the best depiction of Hell I've ever found.
This story looks at the time period of this second Messiah's life where the Gospels left Christ's life blank - you're a normal teenager, you find out you're the Messiah, and then what do you do?
This is not some boring re-telling of the same old tale. The portrayal of the second messiah, God, Jesus Christ, Satan, etc. are quite thought-provoking.
This should sincerely make you think about your pre-conceived notions of what heaven/hell & God's relationship with man is all about. It should also re-affirm that the principles and morals you learned as a Christian are right-on - but how they should be implemented isn't necessarily what gets popularly preached. [Then again, that's just what Christ said, the first time around, wasn't it?]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, hilarious and bitter: a wild, wild ride!, Dec 14 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
Morrow spins the yarn this time about Julie Katz, the product of a Holy Ovum and Murray Katz's - Jewish lighthouse keeper and bibliophile - divinely ordained semen. Julie Katz's search for identity, heritage, and happiness leads her on a wild ride through Hell and the tri-state area. James Morrow's engaging, concrete style offers up a compelling and seamless blend of irreverence and sentimentality which, though often emotional, is never, ever maudlin. Not for those - religious or otherwise - with no sense of humour. I recommend Morrow's writings - any of them, particularly the Towing Jehovah series - only for the open-minded and for those who can have a good laugh without fear of eternal damnation (but we're all damned anyway, right?) :-) Pay particular attention to what Jesus says about the eucharist. In short, a five-star rating does not do justice to this book. I'd venture to give it more just for the laughs I got from reading the outraged "You shouldn't say those things about Jehovah!" reviews listed below.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, hilarious and bitter: a wild, wild ride!, Dec 14 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
Morrow spins the yarn this time about Julie Katz, the product of a Holy Ovum and Murray Katz's - Jewish lighthouse keeper and bibliophile - divinely ordained semen. Julie Katz's search for identity, heritage, and happiness leads her on a wild ride through Hell and the tri-state area. James Morrow's engaging, concrete style offers up a compelling and seamless blend of irreverence and sentimentality which, though often emotional, is never, ever maudlin. Not for those - religious or otherwise - with no sense of humour. I recommend Morrow's writings - any of them, particularly the Towing Jehovah series - only for the open-minded and for those who can have a good laugh without fear of eternal damnation (but we're all damned anyway, right?) :-) Pay particular attention to what Jesus says about the eucharist. In short, a five-star rating does not do justice to this book. I'd venture to give it more just for the laughs I got from reading the outraged "You shouldn't say those things about Jehovah!" reviews listed below.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Satire, July 5 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
This was a refreshing change to the usual SF that deals with the messiah. I couldn't stop laughing about the absurdity of the story. Nor could I find a way to express the delight I took in reading a book that takes modern Western religion (all religion) and shows the foolishness of blind obseesion that people give religion.
This book is an essential for anyone who has been overly indoctrinated with fundemental propaganda and is seeking some humor in the subject. Strangely, I think only someone secure in their own beliefs will appreciate the humor in Morrow's story.
I couldn't put the book down and the ending did not disappoint.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As with all good literature..., Oct. 29 2000
By 
Zentao (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
This one will likely upset you, particularly if you are of a particularly fundamentalist persuasion...
The story line as stated is quite accurate but nothing can likely prepare you for the actual unfolding of events the way Morrow sees them. He isn't shy with with his razor-sharp wit deftly dicing and slicing away at many of the Western world's (and, in some cases, global) sacred cows. A much less misanthropic Swift for the 21st century.
Morrow is probably lucky that his books have been slotted into Science Fiction since otherwise he'd probably be on a "most wanted" list like Rushdie. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully Irreverant, May 16 2002
By 
A. Schwab (Cincinnati, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Only Begotten Daughter (Paperback)
The power of this book comes in the decisions made by the author about how to express his "facts" and those things that had been changed over the course of history. The interactons with the devil are both hilarious and intriguing. They give a glimpse into the idea of holy and profane that are held by the author. The laughs are genuine to those that are sufficiently secure in their beliefs to allow for them.
I would recommend the book to anyone. Enjoy the laughs just for themselves, or use them as a jumping off point to look at your beliefs in a more light hearted way.
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Only Begotten Daughter
Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow (Hardcover - March 2003)
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