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The Messiah of Morris Avenue: A Novel by…
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The Messiah of Morris Avenue: A Novel

by Tony Hendra

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A few years ago a popular song asked, "What if God was one of us?" For many Christians, the question causes us to imagine how the Gospel stories would be different if Jesus were to be born in our lifetime, into a world of air travel, microwave cooking, and electronic communication so different from ancient Judea. Tony Hendra accepts this challenge in "The Messiah of Morris Avenue," retelling the story of Jesus if he were to be born in the United States sometime in the near future.

Told from the perspective of a jaded journalist -- in a future where newspapers have been replaced with online sources that pursue tabloid, TMZ-style stories at the local level -- the novel focuses on the investigation of nebulous miracles attributed to a young Hispanic man named Jay. In search of this man described as wearing a hooded sweatshirt, the cynical reporter Johnny Greco encounters the small group closest to the purported wonderworker, a collection of unemployed outcasts, most who had served time in prison — drug addicts, prostitutes, and petty thieves.

Although skeptical, Greco is intrigued by the mysterious teacher, eventually meeting with Jay. While not convinced that he is Jesus reborn, the reporter believes him to be sincere, something quite unusual in the context of cynical and cutthroat reporting that has come to define Jay's industry. As might be expected, the growing notoriety of the Hispanic wonderworker attracts the attention of the religious powers that be, including the dominant televangelist James Sabbath. The resulting conflict parallels the narrative arc of the Gospels, if with slightly more attention and empathy given to the religious elites.

Hendra generally stays close to the contours of the original stories about Jesus, using wonderful ingenuity to create a modern equivalent to the story filled with marvelous details, such as the federal lethal injection facility he imagines. As might be expected of an author who previously edited humor magazines, there are many laughs, including several witty barbs against the Religious Right bogeyman that serve as the novel's high priest. However Hendra, sensitively and rightly, is more interested in a search for true faith wherever it might be found; this marvelous book is one such fruitful search.

This review is also published at http://alongthispilgrimsjourney.blogspot.com/2012/07/book-review-messiah-of-morr... ( )
  ALincolnNut | Jul 4, 2012 |
This novel is set in the near future in which the United States has become a theocracy under right-wing evangelistic Christians. I think Hendra really overstates this part making the obvious parallels to the Bush administration and the Christian Right. The problem is he makes these characters so evil they may as well be wearing black hats. The better part of the story is the young Hispanic man from the Bronx Jose Francisco Kennedy, also known as Jay, the second coming of Christ. Hendra’s Jay is believable and a thoughtful portrayal of a modern-day incarnation of Christ, living and working among the poor and teaching a message of love. Best yet is that Jay never meets anyone’s expectations for him, not any human’s at least, speaking only of God’s plans and frustrating the liberal journalist who narrates the book. The second coming ends much the same way as the first with Jay’s execution for treason and rising again. In kind of a bittersweet way his followers carry on his teachings but already are showing signs of schism.

“P&L. It can stand for peace and love or profit and loss. But not both. Take your pick.” – p. 75

“Blessed are the doubters, for doubt is the path to truth.” – p. 76 ( )
  Othemts | Jun 26, 2008 |
Christ comes again to the slightly-in-the-future right-wing theocracy that the US has become. Pretty heavy-handed. Christ says some nice things about war and murder.
  franoscar | Jan 5, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805079645, Hardcover)

From the bestselling author of Father Joe, a slyly comic, deeply spiritual novel that imagines the Second Coming--and an unlikely, lovably human new savior

Tony Hendra's Father Joe became a new classic of faith and spirituality--even for those not usually inclined. Now Hendra is back with a novel set in a very reverent future where church and state walk hand in hand. Fade-in as Johnny Greco--a fallen journalist who nurses a few grudges along with his cocktails--stumbles onto the story of a young man named Jay who's driving around New Jersey preaching radical notions (kindness, generosity) and tossing off miracles. How better, Johnny schemes, to stick it to the Reverend Sabbath, America's #1 Holy Warrior, than to write a headline-making story announcing Jay as the Second Coming? Then something strange happens. Died-in-the-wool skeptic Johnny actually finds his own life being transformed by the new messiah.

Alternately hilarious and genuinely moving, The Messiah of Morris Avenue brings to life a savior who reminds the world of what Jesus actually taught and wittily skewers all sorts of sanctimoniousness on both sides of the political spectrum. Writing with heart, a sharp eye, and a passionate frustration with those who feel they hold a monopoly on God, Tony Hendra has created a delightful entertainment that reminds us of the unfailing power of genuine faith.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Out to stick it to Reverend Sabbath, America's premier religious figure, failed journalist Johnny Greco announces that a young man named Jay, who has been preaching radical notions and performing miracles, is really the Second Coming.

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