The Book of Eli
One day, an ordinary American male––working, married, with kids––wakes up in Heaven. The surprise comes because Eli Canaan has led a less-than-saintly life. True, he’s a nice guy: he recycles, coaches his kid’s team, helps his wife with the laundry and his children with homework, walks the dog. But he cheats on his wife regularly. So what’s he doing in Heaven?
In Moffie’s Heaven, adulterers are sent back to Earth as alley cats. Groucho Marx, smoking a cigar, cracking jokes, and arching his eyebrows, is the tour guide. He shows Eli around Heaven, explaining, among other things, that the absence of cats or dogs is not because D-O-G is God spelled backwards, but because people reincarnate as pets: Good people as well-treated pets, bad ones as abused animals.
Eli’s tour of Heaven provides a humorous framework for discussion of serious fundamentalist Christian theology, as well as popular psychological and conservative political ideas. Sigmund Freud, for example, analyzes Eli and uses AA vocabulary to lecture him genially about sex addiction. A shimmering Jesus reviews the Ten Commandments, scoring Eli’s performance, chastising him for his fixations, and urging him to observe the spirit, as well as the letter of the law. But Jesus, laughing in the symphonic tones of Mozart, reminds Eli to keep things light; after all, even the Twelve Apostles were cut-ups.
Eli’s meeting with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist for whom a stint in Heaven is pure Hell, opens a discussion of sex education and the ban on prayer in public schools, followed by the Catholic Church’s obligation to pay property taxes; Eli’s meeting with Ayn Rand initiates a forum on libertarian political ideals. Eli even gets advice from Moses, Mohammed, and Buddha.
Moffie’s jokes add spice to topics that some readers might otherwise find tedious. Some jokes are a bit discomfiting. Eli’s Jewish, for example, yet he does not seem bothered by Jesus’ jokes about Jews, like this one: “Why don’t Jewish mothers drink wine? Answer—Because it will interfere with their suffering.”
Throughout Eli’s tour and meetings with dignitaries, Eli dreads being sent back to earth as an alley cat—the fate of adulterers. But God, speaking in the voice of Orson Welles, has other plans for Eli.
Sam Moffie, Devra Bastiaens, Editor
Mill City Press