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on June 9, 2002
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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on February 1, 2002
To attempt to describe the plot of this novel would take away from the first time readers experience, so I shall not do that. I will however say this, I enjoyed the characterization of Jesus and Satan respectively and all in all, I literally absorbed this book like a. . .sponge.
It took me two days to read this book, but only because I had to sleep. :)
I encourage anyone who enjoys religious satire, and novels that ask the reader to think to some how get a hold of a copy of this one, and give it a go.
It will be worth your time.
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on January 28, 1999
The best book I've read in a long time. The concepts presented were amazing in their philosophical depth, yet they were played out in passing conversations with the most biting of satire. I nearly read most of it to my wife while I was reading it. The middle to ending bogged the pace down somewhat (the New Jersey sequence), but the beginning was incredible and the ending nearly so. I really antagonized some fundamentalists I know by quoting to them! NOT for the deeply devout.
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on May 16, 2002
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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on July 7, 2003
It's a comedy. It's a drama. It's a social commentary on religion, sexuality and tabloid journalism. It's a heartwarming inspiration. It's a knee-slapping satire.
The story is riveting, with plenty of unexpected turns to keep the reader guessing what Morrow has up his sleeve. But the real hallmark here is in characterization; the author has created incredibly believable people here despite the incredible premise.
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on October 6, 1996
This is not a book for Christian Fundementalists without a very good sense of humor. This is a book for everybody else. Morrow's style wreaks havok with questions of faith of all sorts, from the gender of god, religous terrorism, and even Christ's thoughts on Christianity. If you are willing to immerse your mind into hours of stimulating prose and accompanying witticisms, then be prepared to enjoy a wild ride
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on November 21, 2003
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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on August 24, 2001
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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on January 2, 1998
James Morrow loves to mix SF and theology, and most of his efforts are VERY good (see Towing Jehova). Unfortunately this story begins with a great premise, and adds quite a few other interesting ones throughout the book, but the details of the tale never quite seem to mesh properly. Ultimately it winds down to a somewhat soggy conclusion that just doesn't measure up to what I expect from Morrow.
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on February 15, 2001
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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