I have to start out by saying that this is one of the most bizarre books I’ve read in a long time, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was that bizarreness that kept me hooked to the world Kessler has created out of the city of Boston, Scripture, prophecy, and a family Jerry Springer could use to resurrect his daytime talk show to monumental ratings.
And then we have Mr. Green. The devil. The tie that binds. The one who unwillingly links the Katz family to his own demented prophecy.
Mr. Green considers himself the lesser son, referring to Jesus as the golden boy, a brown-noser and quite a few other things that Satan probably would think about Christ. The book draws heavily from Mormon beliefs, never calling the religion by name and referring to it only as the Church, and that adds another depth of interest to the plot. These draws include the Mormon belief of Jesus and Satan as brothers and the ruling of another planet after death.
The Katz family is…a mess. Father Harvey is a defense lawyer who has built his fortune on the backs of murderers and prefers the company of hookers to that of his wife. Wife Susan is faithful, devoted, and having an affair with Mr. Green. Daughter Katie is a sixteen-year-old Gothic rebel who’s pregnant by Harvey’s business associate (spy), Hugh Jackson. Dizzy yet?
It’s truly no wonder a family like this has Mr. Green’s full attention.
And yet, the one thing Mr. Green wants, the golden soul that would turn his paraplegic and mute Pal into a prophet, is on its way to melding with Katie’s child.
Human nature, sin, salvation, and free will are the cornerstones of a book that highlights the worst of humanity. Within the Katz family (and their extended family), one can find each of the seven deadly sins. Probably Mr. Green is the one whose sins are the greatest, his being the devil notwithstanding. In his obsession to retrieve the golden soul for Pal, in his manipulation of the Katz family and of those whose lives intersect with theirs, he commits the most grievous sin—the revoking of free will.
Mr. Green is probably the most rounded character, and in some ways he’s almost a caricature of the Satan we learned about in Sunday school. Often over the top and incredibly verbose, Mr. Green’s almost-comical interactions with those around him remind me much of Mr. Nick, the devil character in the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (if you haven’t seen it, shame on you; aside from being one of Heath Ledger’s last roles, it’s also an incredibly well-done movie, directed by the great Terry Gilliam). In fact, as I read Dr. Green, I imagined that devil, the one who manipulated people so easily, all of his ideas seemed to be theirs. Mr. Green makes a mockery of faith and of free will, yet in the end is undone by both.
Somewhat. In the world of this book, many things, including the devil, are immortal.
I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a different take on religion and Satan’s role in the spiritual world. Think a less-lofty (and slightly grosser) Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice.