The Problem with God takes an interesting premise: what if we could prove the existence of an afterlife. Should we share it with everyone? If you think about the ramifications for our world—as the book stimulates you to—you may come to the conclusion, as characters in this book have, that things are better left as they are.
When someone does try to share such proof with the world, certain people from the Catholic Church and the Mormans take notice and make moves to intervene. The story revolves around a Jesuit priest, who rescues a woman from the river after she fell/was pushed off a bridge, and the woman, Grace, who has returned to earth after death to try to destroy the evidence. She must find a way to die again so that she returns to the same realm she was in, not a random one as is possible. In order to do this she needs to pass through a physical gateway and when someone bricks up the one she was planning to use, she has to go to New York to find another.
The priest, Julius, helps Grace with the various illegal activities that she undertakes as she tries to find the proof, destroy it and then die once more. His Navy background gave him the action man requirements, but I would have thought that he might have had some moral qualms. However, he is clearly smitten with her and intrigued by the situation, so I was happy to let the story unfold as it did. I also suspect that his ability to rise to the occasion and do the unexpected is all part of his charm, because Julius is a delightful character, as is his dog, Jack.
The characters are complex and well-drawn. I particularly enjoyed Julius in the classroom. What a great teacher. Jack the dog’s point of view on the action is a nice touch and often quite amusing.
The pacing is good; it never lagged, and the author moved between the different points of views well. Plot wise, a lot happened, but it didn’t entirely makes sense to me. Why did Parnell want to expose the truth about the afterlife? The more I learned about him, the less likely that seemed. I also wondered why Parnell put up with Uriel. The man abused him constantly, spent his money and yet Parnell did whatever Uriel asked of him. And who was Uriel? This was never explained. However, since this is the second in a series, and I haven’t read the first book, I’m making an assumption—hopefully not an erroneous one—that book one helps make sense of this.
The end was clever, though I didn’t understand how Julius’s action would actually help Grace.
I found some of the paragraphing around dialogue a little confusing when one character spoke and the reaction of the other character followed directly after instead of in a new paragraph on the next line. This is not the first book I’ve read that does this, but it gives the impression that the character reacting to the speaker is the person speaking. I found myself stopping to check rather too often.
Good prose flows so smoothly that you don’t realise that you’re reading, and though mostly it’s pretty good here, many times several sentences in a row begin with the same pronoun, giving the prose a choppy repetitive feel. At other times, the author uses passive constructions where active ones would work better. These are not big issues for the ordinary reader but they are things that keep this book at 4 rather than 5 stars for this reviewer.
I think the cover is excellent.