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Bookmarks Issue: 
38-Jan-Feb-2009
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A-American SaviorRoland Merullo (A Little Love Story, 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2006; Breakfast with Buddha, 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2008) crafts an endearing, satirical novel that imagines an election season with Jesus, representing the Divinity Party, on the presidential ballot.

The Story: The Story: Narrated by TV-reporter-turned-campaign-worker Russ Thomas, American Savior envisions a campaign season enlivened by some serious divine intervention. Thomas joins the campaign staff for presidential candidate Jesus, a divine presence-cum-politician who definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. Jesus is a West Coast–surfing, rodeo bull-riding Elvis impersonator who centers his campaign platform on "the golden rule." He promises to end greed and stupidity, and he spars humorously with television pundits bearing such cartoonish names as Anne Canter and Lenny Queen. Then he picks a running mate, and American Savior becomes election entertainment at its best.
Algonquin. 312 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1565126076

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"The book’s gentle satire effectively underscores Merullo’s criticism of 21st century behavior and beliefs. To some readers, the book may end too soon, before we see what happens to a country delivered into a world in which the Divinity Party platform rules the day." Judy Budz

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Merullo can ground his yarn in crisp ordinary details and logistics, which keeps the ‘tall-tale’ quality rooted and almost plausible. Various episodes are funny, tragic, touching and always realistic." Sam Coale

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"American Savior is a wonderful book, with more warmth and depth than you might expect. … It’s a great book for the political season, and the plot is full of twists and turns as the campaign unfurls." William McKeen

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The only people Jesus is really against, in fact, are evangelical Christians and conservative politicians, who, if they read this novel, will have to keep turning the other cheek again and again. It’s fun to imagine what would happen if a noble candidate threw caution to the wind and ran on a platform of universal kindness that appealed to our higher nature." Ron Charles

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Merullo gently satirizes the media and politics in this thoughtful commentary on the role religion plays in America. The book showcases Merullo’s conviction that Christ’s real message about treating others with kindness is being warped by those who believe they alone understand the Messiah." Dierdre Donahue

Critical Summary

Merullo takes an original route to satirizing the American electoral process during what became a particularly heady 2008 election: he envisions Candidate Christ running for president. Merullo’s Christ preaches kindness above all else, and he shows it to his staff on a daily basis by feeding them Indian food and displaying "a straight-faced goodness amid the grimy mechanics of campaigning, polling and dealing with the media" (Washington Post). Merullo has created a niche for himself in religious satire (Golfing with God [2005] and Breakfast with Buddha), but he manages to shirk the bitterness that often befalls his peers, even if this Jesus’s statements never reach true religious epiphany. Even so, American Savior is funny, fresh, and, in its best moments, inspiring.