Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes

Eric Weiner
Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine
Twelve Books / Hachette Book Group
US First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-446-53947-0
Publication Date:12-05-2011
353 Pages; $26.99
Date Reviewed: 02-04-12
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  Non-Fiction

In the introduction to 'Man Seeks God,' Eric Weiner confides with the reader that he's afraid of hospitals and with good reason; as a child, he'd accompany his father, an oncologist to work. When he finds himself hospitalized as an adult, the nurse attending him asks: "Have you found your God yet?"

It's a call to arms for Weiner and great news for readers. Weiner's subsequent search for his place in eight different religions is consistently entertaining, as it manages to be both humorous and generous. 'Man Seeks God' asks hard questions, never settles for easy answers and is so much fun to read it's difficult to put down. Weiner's prose is smart and engaging, as well as laugh-out-loud funny. Remarkably, he manages all this with an even hand. This is a seriously funny book about religion that never makes fun of beliefs or those who hold them. Instead, Weiner evokes his humor on the sentence level with writing so great you never want to look away.

Having escaped the hospital with nothing more than a warning, Weiner immerses the readers in his arguments with himself about belief. Dubbing himself a "Confusionist" ("We have absolutely no idea what our religious beliefs are"), Weiner then sets out to explore eight different religions in a variety of settings. He starts with Sufism and concludes with the Kabbalah; in between he immerses himself (and his readers) in a variety that includes Buddhism, Raelism, Wicca, the Franciscans, Taoism and Shamanism. Each religion requires (so far as Weiner is concerned) a trip to where it is most purely and invitingly practiced. 'Man Seeks God' serves up no less than an eight-course pilgrimage.

The key to Weiner's success is his prose voice, which combines acerbic wit with deep respect for those he meets and their beliefs. Sentence by sentence, Weiner keeps his reader amazingly entertained with thoughtful and very funny writing. Weiner himself is the main character, and he gets lots of miles out of self-examination. "I know I'm supposed to broaden my mind, expand my perspective, but instead it just terrifies me." This may all sound very easy, and Weiner makes it look that way, but the balancing act is in fact very difficult. Beyond making fun of himself, Weiner's outlook is so sharp that he writes a lot of sentences that you'll want to read over, write down or read aloud to those in your general vicinity. His talent is such that his sentences will sound as good to those around you as they do to you.

'Man Seeks God' is filled with great characters who help Weiner try to share in their religious experience, generally without success. From Wayne in Nepal to Dilek in Turkey, Weiner's guides and helpers are memorable individuals. We like them third-hand as much as he does first hand, and we feel like we really get to know them as well. Weiner has an eye for details that capture the whole man or woman, and his nervous anxiety proves to be a great ice-breaker.

Front and center are the religions and the places Weiner goes to find them. 'Man Seeks God' is a religious travel guide, and Weiner sets himself a pretty high bar in this respect. Not only does he have to take us to a different physical location, he also has to take us into a different philosophical mindset. Here again, Weiner's prose is up to the task. His details put us in the places with his characters and his sense of humor gets readers into the religious beliefs by making fun of Weiner's own inability to fully realize the varieties of religious experience he seeks. Weiner's attempts to these varieties of religious experience are clearly heartfelt and his inability to do so completely causes him some real sadness. The end result is that when he turns himself into the target of his own sense of humor, we feel the pang of regret as well as the barbed wit.

The most amazing accomplishment of all this is that Weiner writes a very funny book that embraces the contradictions of the religions he explores. You can feel the writer's urgent need for connection even as he writes so entertainingly of his own disconnect. You can join him in the Godmobile, an old Caddy in New York in which he is ferried around by a ex-wrestler turned Franciscan priest, or walking clockwise around what he calls the "Giant Marshmallow" (really, a temple) in Nepal. Wherever Weiner takes you, he will make you laugh and make you think. In 'Man Seeks God,' Eric Weiner goes looking for religion. Readers are likely to find something even more valuable; a trusted, smart friend who will make you laugh.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us