Review Blog

Jul 16 2012

The reluctant hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams

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Penguin, 2012. ISBN 9780143566847.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Dodie and Coco's parents vanish from their suburban Melbourne home just as Dodie commences preparations for both her senior exams and her driver's test. The sisters soon learn that their grandparents were members of the international society of Joseph of Arimathea. Under instructions from "the Mover", the girls aided by Enron, Taxi and the 'hunky' Jones must  "move" an historical artifact to the next safe house. Eluding both police and the bad guys, an intense road trip to Sydney ensues.
Despite initial misgivings, Dodie becomes a strong leader. Williams' engaging narrator describes popular culture such as Downtown Abby, Jamie Oliver and the Brisbane Floods to produce contemporary suspense with a dollop of speculation.  Could the body sent from Nicaragua decades earlier be that of Eva Peron? Nope, the basement offered up the perfectly preserved body of  . . . The Messiah himself.
Jose Saramagio's, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, retold the story of Jesus with considerable creative license and alternate factional histories like The Hiram Key or The Da Vinci Code abound. However, in The Reluctant Hallelujah, the identity of the villains is not explicitly stated so their unknown motivations could equally be well intentioned? Nevertheless, Williams' reluctant protagonists treat Jesus' body with due reverence throughout the book and considering that there is no such thing as bad publicity; this part adventure, part history, part romance and part tragedy is delightful.
So whether you are a Christian or a Possibilitarian (Agnostic) like David Eagleman, a neuroscientist unable to find explanations in science for so many natural phenomena, you are bound to identify with the coincidences (or miracles) that aid these irreverent yet endearing teens as they become the temporary guardians of Christ's body. No? In that case the characters and events succeed in suspending our disbelief as well as any volume of YA Australian literature.
Potentially controversial, selection is justified by the fact that it is as well written as it is engaging. On one level mildly blasphemous but on another, a novel that stimulates that singular sense of awe and wonder, capable of turning a confirmed Atheist into a Possibilitarian.
Deborah Robins

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