The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch

When I tell you that this was my 100th book of the year, you will have an idea of how many books I haven’t written up this year. I know you think that all I do is write up books, but I have spared you quite a few. You can thank me later. Preferably with cookies.

The Discovery of Heaven was my 100th book of the year, read for my second book club. It was, in short, not really my thing, though I did find what it was trying to do to be interesting.

I am not going to try and sum up this 700 page tome in a quick blog entry. The length does prevent me from doing that, but also the themes of heaven, hell, time, science, and divine intervention. Just to mention a few. Overall, I thought that the characters (especially the female characters) were not fleshed out very well, but that, I suppose, betrays my own interest in character development. This was a book about themes rather than people, about what might happen if God changed his mind about his covenant with humankind and needed someone to take the evidence (in this case, the Ten Commandments). If you are interested, you can read The New York Times review. Also, check out the page at BN.com.

While this book was written on a philosophical level that isn’t really my thing, what I thought was interesting was how, when angels intervened in human lives, the humans basically became miserable. People died, friendships ended, lives were ruined. There were also some beautiful things said about friendship, and some powerful comments on life and death.

I don’t really want to get into all that, though, because I fear a big old predestination/free will debate. Instead I will tell you about how I read the book. I started reading it last week and then I thought, “Oh, crap, I’m going to have to take it to Chicago with me.” What I wanted to take to Chicago with me was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. But I thought, “Well, what if I finish Garden Spells? I will take The Discovery of Heaven just in case.”

You guys. I finished Garden Spells on the shuttle to our hotel. Not. Good. (Well, the book was pretty good, but it was not good for my plan for me to have finished so soon.) But, actually, very good for me to work on The Discovery of Heaven, because it afforded me big chunks of time for reading. This was actually quite a good plane book. For one thing, it made me feel important to be carrying it around. “You over there! Look at what I’m reading! The Washington Post declared it to be ‘one of the most entertaining and profound philosophical novels ever written.'” And the other (slightly less shallow) thing that made it a good plane book is that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish it. I have a horror of finishing a book on a plane and having nothing to do (but talk to the person I am with). There was no danger of that with this book, though I did make enough progress to make me feel like I would, some day, finish this book.

When I wasn’t reading in Chicago, my aunt and I managed to find time to go to a Cubs game, see the Harold Washington Library (I am one of those lame-os who wants to see libraries when I am on vacation), visit the Art Institute, walk through the middle of the Jazz Festival, check out Navy Pier, consume a lot of food, and do a fair amount of shopping. My pictures will be up at some point. I know you can’t wait to see the pole that was my view at the Cubs game. Being able to see the batter is overrated.

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