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Christian Nation: A Novel    by Frederic Rich order for
Christian Nation
by Frederic Rich
Order:  USA  Can
W. W. Norton, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Although he says his novel Christian Nation is not necessarily a prediction of what the future holds or feels that a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America could really take hold, Frederic Rich tempers that observation by also stating 'with some bad luck and bad decisions, it's possible, and that's what scares me'.

Reminiscent of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and Philip Roth's Plot Against America, this cautionary novel poses the question of what might have happened if John McCain had won the election in 2008, died in office, and Sarah Palin began dismantling the separation between church and state in order to implement her Christian fundamentalist agenda.

Mixing purported facts and authentic quotes from real politicians with some generous dollops of pure fiction, Rich's book becomes a totally dystopian story once McCain is stricken with an aneurism and his vice-president moves into the Oval Office.

As the evangelical community takes over, rights for women and gays are rolled back, the Bible becomes the ultimate law of the land, and eventually the residents of New York City rise up to oppose the repressive regime in Washington, D.C..

Obviously the premise of this novel has generated not only more than just passing interest but it has also created strong reactions from some of the groups presented in the story. Frankly, it is probably all but impossible to separate the content here from the political and religious beliefs that will polarize most of the folks who decide to read this book.

From purely a literary standpoint, Christian Nation has its flaws. The narrative is supposedly a memoir whereby, in a flash back, one of the main characters gives us an account of how the nation has reached the dire conditions that prevail in 2029. This approach creates a lackluster show and tell tale rather than one with any kind of traditional plot development.

The first person narrative features not only a limited use of dialogue but it also allows the author, through the voice of his narrator, to continually mount his political soapbox and hammer home the not-so-subtle points he wants to make.

I am not sympathetic to either the opposing views of the Christian fundamentalist movement or the ideas of the political right, so I guess I should have found this novel of interest. The truth is, though, that I didn't. In fact, I found this book rather tedious and after reading the first two-thirds of the story closely, I finally couldn't stomach the author's heavy-handed approach any more and skimmed the rest.

Christian Nation is a very provocative novel but that doesn't suggest it is a satisfying or enjoyable read. Obviously those with strong religious/political convictions one way or another will either vehemently love or hate this work of fiction. On the other hand, those in the middle may be totally ambivalent. Although there is a modicum of food-for-thought here, don't expect much entertainment value.

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