Consider this a 3.5 star review. There were things I really liked, and things I really didn’t like, but overall I’m glad I read it.
Former journalist Eric Weiner had gas and went to a hospital, where a nurse asked, “Have you found your God?” After a good fart (I presume), Weiner, a gastronomical Jew, decides he needs to fill the god-shaped hole in his life. So he travels the world exploring different faiths until he finds one that fits his hole.
What I didn’t like about the book was the fact Weiner focused on such fringe elements of major faiths, along with just fringe faiths. For instance, instead of exploring some traditional branch of Islam, he went for Sufism to see if becoming a whirling dervish might be his thing. Instead of seeing what Christianity is like, he hung out with an order of Franciscan monks. There’s a chapter on the Raelists, a group of UFO worshippers who follows a dude who picks out the hottest chicks for himself. Another on shamanism that didn’t even have the benefit of being funny, a la the Raelists.
The most annoying thing, though, was that this isn’t an experience your average Joe Blow (like me) could emulate. Who’s going to give me the time and money to fly to China, home, Nepal, home, Italy, home, Las Vegas, home, etc, etc.? Nobody. Plus, he always managed to find transplanted Americans to learn from once he was in the exotic locales.
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This is a total stereotype, I know, but honestly, Weiner came across as so neurotic that it was obvious by the third chapter that he was going to settle on Judiasm. Seriously, he was like a less annoying and funnier Woody Allen.
What I liked about the book was, for one thing, the general concept. His search for the faith that “speaks” to him is something I can certainly identify with. I like that the book is episodic, with each chapter addressing a different experience and being pretty much self-contained. I enjoyed his tone and sense of humor, and I especially liked that he included numerous quotes from people who helped shape each of the faiths he explored, and quotes from great literature that helped illuminate the nature of his quest or some other relevant issue.
I liked the book enough that when I had the opportunity to pick up over 50 copies to use in my AP English Language and Composition class, I jumped on it. I think the book will offer a chance to discuss Weiner’s attitude going into each experience, his writing style, and will just be a great jumping off point for many interesting conversations.
I’d give the book 4 stars if it wasn’t for the way Weiner acted like it was no big deal to jet around the world multiple times for his research. It came off as, “Look at me doing this thing you can’t do.” Resentment? Sure. But it’s my review, so …