Honk If You Are Jesus by Peter Goldsworthy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Very disappointing! A book written by rote, it seems.
I greatly enjoyed Goldsworthy’s Maestro, so had been looking forward to Honk if you are Jesus. I can’t see how it’s the same author.
‘Honk’ is entirely predictable. Every plot turn is telescoped. And the characters! Awful examples of mere types, barely encompassing even two dimensions. There is a lonely-brilliant-cynical woman professor, a fat-gay-epicurean diva, a nagging mum, a two-faced televangelist, a scruffy-brilliant-geneticist, a trophy wife … And these are the filled-out characters!
All this is a pity. Firstly, because I’m convinced Goldsworthy can write. Secondly, because he’s nodded towards a whole library full of fascinating topics.
The story touches on: private tertiary institutions, the decline (or not?) of religion in Australia, genetics, the nature of scientific enquiry, the personality-driven nature of ‘objective’ progress , and the ethics of interference.
These wonderful ingredients, however, are poorly articulated. ‘Honk’ made me feel like it was a neat colour-by-numbers book (#1, make medical expert a cynic with nagging mum, etc).
There is one exception – the last chapter is SO MUCH better than the rest of the book. It has shade and nuance, it’s more reflective, and it hints at (not yells out) a surprising plot twist. The whole book could have been like this!
As a Christian, it’s kind of encouraging to see how poorly this book is written. There’s pressure, both subtle and direct, that tells Christians to butt out of these big topics. I hear the message that Christianity has nothing worthwhile to say about abortion, genetic engineering, medical funding decisions, etc. This book reminds me that so many Christians, simply by being interested in these things, already have a more thought-out point of view than our neighbours who float along with current popular opinion.
So, if you have an idea, speak up! Test it out. Measure the idea by the gospel of Jesus. See how to explain it to a general audience, with varied points of view. And, respectfully, speak. In other words, ‘Honk if you know Jesus.’