Tuesday, March 09, 2010

36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's newest novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, is about a professor Cass Seltzer. Cass is a professor of psychology and his field of academic study is the psychology of religion. Cass has written a book, "The Varieties of Religious Illusion", that discusses the novel's eponymous 36 arguments. The book, a best seller, has propelled Cass to fortune and fame. If academic success weren't enough, Cass has garnered the affections of a beautiful mathematician, Lucinda Mandelbaum. Cass, in the midst of this extraordinary luck, feels as though he has been mistakenly given someone else's life.

The novel alternates between Cass' famed present and his past. We learn about his ex-wife, Pascale; his ex-girlfriend, Roz; and his ex-mentor, Professor Klapper; as well as his relationship to Lucinda. Goldstein does a fantastic job of moving events in the past and present forward toward toward a climax. Will things work out with Lucinda? What about Roz, who, retired from an academic career as an anthropologist, has resurfaced in Cass' life? What about Azarya, a child prodigy who must choose between his phenomenal mathematical gift and his duty as the next Rebbe to the Waldeners?

I loved this book. It is everything a novel is supposed to be, an engaging narrative about human life and relationships. It is full of memorable characters: Professor Klapper, Azarya, Pascale, Roz, and Lucinda. The characters are so wonderfully developed I found myself rooting for a particular outcome. I cannot recommend you read this novel enough.


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