A New York dentist has his identity stolen via social media
✎ Paul O’Rourke is a New York dentist with a troubled mind. Stemming from the suicide of his father, he constantly questions himself, his actions, the state of the world, his religious beliefs. His ability to interact with others is lacking and his relationship with women are superficial and lust-orientated. His life lacks meaning.
When he creates a website for his business, a stranger steals his identity and engages online as him. At first he is enraged, then saddened to think the online Paul O’Rourke is more interesting and valid than himself, the real Paul O’Rourke.
His investigations lead him to a group called the Ulms, whose history traces back to the Israelites and whose identifying feature is their ability to doubt everything. Unsurprisingly, O’Rourke ends up discovering he is one of them.
Thematically the book is strong, focusing on the power of the internet; the effects of religious belief and the interplay between private and public personas.
Freedom of religion in America is all fine and good until you start believing in nothing, and then it is a crime to be punished.
✎ “This is one of two American novels shortlisted, now that writers from the US are eligible for the award. The plot sounded good, but turned out to be only mildly interesting. For a book that has been compared to one my of my all time favourites, Catch-22, it didn’t raise a single smile from me. I found the humour inconsistent, jumping between satire and pie-in-the-face humour. Some American fiction I love, and some, like this, which are touted as hilarious, just don’t appeal to me. – Rachel
✎ “I felt like I read this book with a fixed & determined grin awaiting the moment where the genuine funnies would start. It was promoted as being hilarious and perhaps my expectations were too high. Yes it was enjoyable and an interesting enough story, but for me it was a lowlight of the Man Booker reads this year.” – Suzy
Back Bay Books