A God in Ruins
by Leon Uris
Published by HarperCollins
483 pages, 1999
Buy it online
A Story in Ruins
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
About midway through Leon Uris' 12th novel, A God in Ruins, a husband considers when he's asked to critique his wife's writing.
Some of her earlier poetry had danced and leapt and was filled with cunning and grace and metaphors. Down through the years, as each new piece of non-poetry grew longer, it strayed. She was unable to organize her work, keep it under the central command of the writer. The dialogue came from pickled talking heads, not people of wit and observation.
This paragraph so neatly sums up this particular book, it's almost eerie. Uris, himself once a wordsmith of cunning and grace, seems to have spent his time working on A God in Ruins with his writing hand wrapped in gauze and his brain on a different planet altogether. The master storyteller that brought us such memorable works as Trinity, Exodus and Redemption seems utterly absent from this latest book. The writing is labored and stilted, the story rambles confusingly and the dialog is childish and -- sometimes -- even ridiculous. The result is a disappointment, at best. At worst, it's an embarrassment and leaves the reader wondering what this well-loved and wildly successful writer could have been thinking to produce this dreadful mess.
All things being equal, it appeared that I would be the second Roman Catholic president in the American history. Unknown to me until earlier this day, I would be the first Jewish president as well.
This first chapter is told in the first person and in the "present" day (the year is 2008), but most of the story is not told by O'Connoll. Even this is irritating. There have been writers who could handle great leaps of perspective and tense. In this year's Hollywood and Hardwood, Tricia Bauer did it as well as anyone I've ever seen. But that degree of virtuosity is strikingly absent in this work.
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.