Wings and A Prayer – ‘What in God’s Name’ by Simon Rich

I very much enjoyed Simon Rich’s debut novel Elliot Allagash. It was short and satirical, funny but with a dark centre. In ‘What in God’s Name’, I hoped for more of the same. Unfortunately, I think it marks a step backwards. If I had to choose which novel was the debut, I would definitely pick this one.

The premise promises much. If Heaven is a place on Earth, it’s a faceless office building. Angels grind out miracles in office pens, and the CEO (God) would much rather play golf than look after the world. In any case, Earth was only created as a method of harvesting Xenon. In a fit of pique, God decides he’s going to destroy the Earth killing everyone on the planet.

Angel Craig is partial to his charges and he pleads with God not to kill them all. They make a deal, if Craig and his newly promoted sidekick Eliza can make just one prayer come true, God will save us all. All they have to do is unite two people who have both prayed that the other fall in love with them. Sam and Laura both live in New York city, both hanker after each other. It should be easy to bring them together. But of course…

WIGN is a curious mix of Hitchhikers Guide and Bridget Jones, marrying cosmic absurdity with social awkwardness. Sweet, funny and irreverent, it may just be the perfect beach read. Unfortunately it’s not a very deep story. Unlike Elliot Allagash, there is no bite, no layers beneath the story. There are some nice concepts and some funny lines, but ultimately it doesn’t say a great deal. I’d still read another Simon Rich book, but I would hope the next one will be two steps forward, rather than one back.

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