This short novel takes an unusual idea (one deserving a lot more attention) and sends it on a fascinating journey.
I’ll make it clear now that I’m agnostic, so carry none of the usual religious hang-ups about discussing the force, entity or whatever name you wish to give to the mythical being generically known as god.
The narrator lives mostly within the mind of the central character, always referred to as either he/him or, in the case of his wife, as her husband. We can never be sure of the name of this troubled, intelligent, well-read, schizophrenic man.
To enter the mind of a man deeply scarred by mental illness is no mean feat, but Bebawi does it convincingly. Obsession, paranoia, addiction, delusion and physical manifestations of his condition haunt this man throughout the story.
Using quotes from the sacred texts of the Christians, Muslims and Jews, he cites some of his causes for wanting to put God on trial. The passages selected show this legendary entity in the worst light, as a cruel, vindictive, impetuous, unjust, violent, inconsistent and jealous being; hardly the loving god most religious followers would have us see.
The main character’s upbringing as a Coptic Christian shows in the way he finds it difficult to discuss god without reference to so-called holy texts, demonstrating the often confused relationship that religious people generally have with the deities their particular sects have created. There’s an inescapable feeling that their gods would cease to exist without the words written about them by the men (mostly) of the times of their creation.
Intriguingly, placing the idea of putting god on trial in the mind of a man who could be described as ‘mad’ superficially might appear to subvert the purpose of the story, which is to encourage people to question the validity of faith. In the end, the attentive reader will recognise that the protagonist, in spite of his many mental issues, is spot on in regarding the criminal nature of the god described by most religious groups. And that placing the many deities on trial is urgently needed if we are to start dismantling the tribally divisive, authoritarian, self-obsessed nature of religion in its many guises.
There were occasional formatting and editing errors in the edition I read on my Kindle, but these were insufficient to deter me reading on.
The style of writing I found, at first, a little odd. But as the state of mind of the main protagonist became clear, so the presentation became obvious as the right choice.
This is a brave book. It will undoubtedly raise much criticism from adherents of various faiths, and may even involve the author in personal risk, considering the evil extremism that seems to pervade so many religious sects.
I admire the author for taking on such a contentious issue and treating it both seriously and in a manner that entertains.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]