Tag Archives: humour

Review: The God Cookie, by Geoffrey Wood

The God Cookie, by Geoffrey Wood (WaterBrook Press, 2009)

“Perhaps none of this would have happened had they not been arguing about golf balls.”

I don’t know about you, but I figure any book that opens with a line like that has to be worth reading. Especially when it’s written by Geoffrey Wood, who had me laughing frequently in his previous novel, Leaper.

The ones doing the arguing are Parrish, Mason and Duncan, three guys in their early 20’s who work together in Parrish’s coffee shop. They do a lot of this friendly hassling of one another, and on the day in question the topic somehow gets around to whether God talks to people. (Parrish thinks He’s real, the other two aren’t sure, and none of them pay Him much mind.)

Circumstances unfold in such a way that when Parrish opens a fortune cookie after the argument, he believes the words inside are from God. A little bemused and regretting he asked God to speak, he isn’t quite sure what God wants him to do.

Parrish ends up at a bus stop, where he befriends Rose and Audra and encounters a host of other characters. He thinks he’s supposed to help someone, and as he bumbles along trying to find who that someone is and what to do for them, he draws Audra along with him.

Geoffrey Wood is a thinker, as well as having a delightfully quirky sense of humour. His slightly detached, omniscient style works well in this story (although I did have some trouble in the opening pages, trying to figure out who was who among the three guys). It also lets him pull readers in as observers, and behind the surface storyline we can think about the deeper questions he raises about how we relate to one another—and to God.

Although the narrative feels a bit distant, it offers glimpses into individuals’ daily struggles that let readers empathize. I hope it teaches us, as the events teach John Parrish, to listen. Really listen to the people around us.

WaterBrook is a Christian publisher, but The God Cookie is a novel that should cross over well to the mainstream market. It’s definitely not “formula Christian material” (whatever that is). None of the characters go to church or do all “the right things”.

Some Christian readers may look only at the surface and close the book as moderately irreverent. That would be a mistake. Read to the end, and while you won’t find fancy theology, you’ll find spiritual truth (suitable to Christianity, not just vague truth). And it’s not irreverent, it’s honest about where these three men are in their spiritual lives at the start of the story.

We all know people like that. They don’t mean to be offensive to God, they just don’t have Him on their radars. Everyone starts that way until He pings us with His.

I’d like to know where the novel is set. It’s somewhere in the United States I presume, northern enough to need hats and gloves in February but where snow that late in the season is not a given.

Canadian readers, be warned: the novel refers to people wearing toboggans. I puzzled a bit about why one would wear a toboggan that was meant for coasting on snow, and then I wondered if an intrepid Canadian had pulled the wool over the author’s and editors’ eyes. (Bad pun intended.)

We call them toques, (or tuques, depending on who you believe). For the uninitiated, that’s pronounced to rhyme with “Luke” and it’s a knitted hat. According to Wikipedia, “toboggan” is a short form of “toboggan hat”. But on the toboggan page it sends you to the tuque page to read about the hat. It also says a toque is a chef’s hat and a tuque is a knitted hat, but any knitting pattern I’ve seen has spelled it toque. Google search obligingly provides hats for both spellings.

A traditional book review shouldn’t rabbit-trail like this, but somehow I think Parrish and his buddies would approve. Nonetheless, back on track. Here are some snippets from the novel, to show the fresh delivery Geoffrey Wood gives his prose and his ideas:

“Duncan…leaned on the espresso bar, nervously patting the top of his head with his hand, as if gentle persistence might nudge his thoughts out of hiding.” (p. 162)

“My strangling a bus sign cannot, unfortunately, be blamed on my head wound.” (p. 188, and my personal favourite line in the novel.)

“What God did next for Audra was interesting, mainly because God had been doing it all along. [without it yet being seen]” (p.266)

I laughed less with The God Cookie than with Leaper, but I thought more and got the message better. I hate to use a word like “message” because neither novel is “about” an agenda. Neither preaches. They’re about the characters. Those characters, at least the protagonists, grow and change, but it comes organically from their natures and their experiences.

The God Cookie is a brilliant novel, and I hope we’ll see more from Geoffrey Wood very soon.

Check out chapter one of The God Cookie and see if you don’t want to read more. You can read an interview with Geoffrey Wood at Novel Journey.

Here’s a video introduction to The God Cookie from the author himself.

[Review copy courtesy of my local public library.]

Review: Leaper – The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero, by Geoffrey Wood

Leaper – The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero, by Geoffrey Wood (WaterBrook Press, 2007)

James is a 30-something barista who lives in a squalid apartment now that his lawyer wife has filed for divorce. He’s neurotic, perhaps paranoid, and he doesn’t have much of a life.

Doesn’t sound like a guy you’d want to spend a novel with, does it?

But listen to him talk:

“I don’t know how this works for normal people, but being a basically paranoid-delusional person who finds himself with someone actually following him—well, most of my life has been lived talking myself out of such imagined plots. Now it’s happening. There is a guy, and he is following me. An actual emergency.

“In a way, it’s like an “I told you so” to the universe. I feel prepared. I have been practicing for this sort of thing all my life.” (pp. 209-210)

This is the funniest book I’ve read in a long time. It’s written in first person, mostly present-tense, and James’ quirky humour and his misadventures make for a novel that engaged me from page one.

To make matters worse, this poor guy discovers a random ability to instantly zap from one place to another—to leap. As we follow his attempts to learn how to control this new ability, and his socially-inept dealings with his ex-wife and co-workers, Leaper reveals itself to be more than a comedy. There’s a poignancy here too, and some interesting insights on how we relate to the people around us…and to God.

James thinks maybe God gave him this ability so he can do good, but “If God’s suggesting that I am expected to do good and also obligated to manufacture a genuine desire for it, this boat’s sunk, still sitting on the trailer in the driveway….We’ve got to talk me out of me first.” (p. 199)

Geoffrey Wood has given us a funny, quirky read with some questions that will linger—and that may make a difference in our own relationships. I admit I didn’t get the ending, and that disappointed me. Still, the rest of the novel was fun.

Check out chapter one of Leaper and see if you don’t want to read more. You can read an interview with Geoffrey Wood at Novel Journey.

Leaper is Geoffrey Wood’s first novel. I’m pleased to see he has another novel out: The God Cookie.

[Review source: my personal library]

Oh Deer!

Wise Guy Son and I were driving a remote highway in rural New Brunswick (Canada) last month, and we kept seeing “deer crossing” signs – and “moose crossing”.

Deer grazing on the green slopes near the road are cute. Bounding across the road a safe distance in front of you, they’re still cute.

Deer crossing the asphalt right in front of your vehicle are not.

Apparently wise New Brunswick drivers avoid country driving after dark, at least certain times of year. We saw chain-link fences paralleling sections of the highway where the moose and deer were most active.

As it got closer to dusk (prime feeding time for deer) and I kept seeing the signs, I watched even closer for any sign of off-road movement. Sometimes the highway was elevated enough that a grazing deer would be out of sight until it decided to climb up and cross the road.

Vigilance is important, but I found myself getting tense. Each yellow warning sign felt more menacing than the last.

A person could really start to fear these creatures! Instead of gentle, liquid-gazed deer faces, my imagination caricaturized them as grim-faced, wild-eyed creatures surging up the slopes in a suicidal guerrilla raid to stop the traffic.

A good laugh restored my perspective and got me thinking about danger and about sin, how as important as it is to be vigilant, we need to be careful not to blow what we’re watching for out of proportion. That’s where unhealthy fear comes from.

Deer on the highway: something to see and avoid. Menacing, mutant killer-deer that stalk our nightmares: something fear can use to paralyse us if we let it.

To paraphrase the words of Jr. Asparagus from VeggieTales: We don’t need to fear what’s out there, because God is the biggest.

I’m learning that if I can turn something potentially fearful into something absurdly funny, I won’t freeze up. And there have been times lately that I’ve reminded myself “God is the biggest!”

Prayer and humour are good tools. What works for you?

[I first posted this at InScribe Writers Online, earlier this month. Sorry if it’s a repeat for you!]

Some of us don’t laugh enough

I know I don’t laugh enough, despite the good folks at Readers’ Digest saying “it’s the best medicine.”

If you need a chuckle today, one of these might help:

Award-winning Canadian humourist Phil Callaway has articles, cartoons, and lots of crazy stuff at his website. Take his stress test (follow the link or click below), and then look up the rest of his videos on YouTube.

David Crowder is a gifted American worship leader and one brilliantly funny man. If you can find a copy of his book, Praise Habit, read the copyright page. All of it, top to bottom. Then buy the book and read it all. Here’s his epic tale of the Evil Squirrel:

For the squirrel’s revenge, click here.

Praise Habit, by David Crowder

Praise Habit, by David CrowderPraise Habit, by David Crowder (2004, TH1NK Books, an imprint of NavPress)

Praise Habit is subtitled “Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi”. I picked up this book knowing I needed to recognize and praise God more frequently in my day. David Crowder adds a deeper meaning to the title by linking to nuns’ habits and suggesting the possibility of praise as our garment, of our lives becoming living praise. He calls us to a life larger and more free than the one we usually settle for.

The first part of the book explores the nature of praising God, and then provides a sampling of Psalms from The Message version with the author’s own devotional thoughts. He shares enough instruction to equip readers to encounter God in Scripture on their own.

This is not your stereotypical, formal book about faith and the Christian life. I love the freshness of his language, the new-to-me illustrations he uses – and the humour. This man is brilliantly funny, in an off-beat way. Want proof? Read the copyright page. Read it all, and tell me if you don’t at least giggle. [Find it in the Amazon preview here.]

David Crowder’s reflections on the Psalms often start with an anecdote, and some of those had me laughing out loud. Then he transitions to practical and insightful application of the passage at hand.

What this book gave me was new language and a sense of renewed wonder for the salvation experience: “live the rescue.” I’ll return to it for that, and also for the laughter.

I hope David Crowder continues his music ministry for years to come. I also hope he writes another book soon. It’s long overdue.

If truth brings freedom

And laughter is the best medicine

Then Praise Habit is a tonic worth tasting.