To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Joshua Ferris's wry, intelligent novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour adroitly navigates the borderland between the demands of faith and the persistence of doubt.

Paul O'Rourke, a Park Avenue dentist, is cynical about nearly everything, save his beloved Boston Red Sox. One day Paul finds his office website appropriated by someone posting biblical-sounding messages. To his dismay, he soon becomes an unwilling presence in the online world, his name attached to posts and tweets that take on an increasingly disturbing, even vaguely anti-Semitic, tone. Paul's distaste for our absorption in social media and for electronic devices like our smartphones--what he calls his "me-machine"--only deepens his distress.

The members of the group who've reached out to him consider themselves descendants of the Amalekites, the hated tribe whose extermination God decrees in the Book of Samuel. Paul, an atheist, eventually learns the tragic story of the religious seeker whose research fuels the activities of the group he laments has "hijacked my life" and he comes to understand their effort is less about preserving some tiny cult than it is in defining the dimensions of religious practice amid skepticism.

In seizing upon both the transitory oddities of contemporary life and our enduring search for meaning, Joshua Ferris has created a winning modern parable--a welcome return to the spirit of his first novel, Then We Came to the End. Ferris is a gifted satirist with a tender heart, and if he continues to find targets as worthy as the ones he skewers here, his work should amuse and enlighten us for many years to come. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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