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American Savior: A Novel of Divine Politics Hardcover – August 26, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Jesus Christ turns up in West Zenith, Mass., Catholics, Jews and atheists unite to help him realize his plan of becoming America's next president in this hilarious novel from Merullo (Breakfast with Buddha). Chief adviser to the Jesus for America campaign is Russ Thomas, a cynical TV journalist who sets out to convince the American public that Jesus is the real deal. Jesus' chances of being elected seem slim as he faces skepticism from both ends of the political spectrum over his platform of kindness and goodness and the fact that he names his mother as his running mate. But as Jesus hits the campaign trail, Russ and his team begin to have faith in their candidate, themselves and humanity. Most enjoyable are the takedowns of thinly veiled political journalists: there's loud-mouthed, insult-spewing Anne Canter and Bulf Spritzer, a decent guy [who] can never quite convince the viewer that he isn't ecstatic about being in the limelight. The result is, for the most part, an uproarious satire, hampered only by Merullo's occasional slips into the preachiness about morality that he so harshly mocks. (Aug.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Merullo takes an original route to satirizing the American electoral process during what became a particularly heady 2008 election: he envisions Candidate Christ running for president. Merullo's Christ preaches kindness above all else, and he shows it to his staff on a daily basis by feeding them Indian food and displaying "a straight-faced goodness amid the grimy mechanics of campaigning, polling and dealing with the media" (Washington Post). Merullo has created a niche for himself in religious satire (Golfing with God [2005] and Breakfast with Buddha), but he manages to shirk the bitterness that often befalls his peers, even if this Jesus's statements never reach true religious epiphany. Even so, American Savior is funny, fresh, and, in its best moments, inspiring.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126077
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roland Merullo was born in Boston and raised in the working-class city of Revere, Massachusetts. He had a scholarship to Exeter Academy and graduated in 1971, attended Boston University for two years, transferred to Brown and graduated from Brown in 1975, then earned a Master's there--in Russian Studies-- in 1976. Roland has published thirteen novels and six books of non-fiction, and given talks at hundreds of universities, schools, bookstores, and other venues. He currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife Amanda and their two daughters. He can be reached via his website:

Merullo has a new novel just out: The Return. A thrilling sequel to Revere Beach Boulevard, it follows the lives of a circle of people who are linked by one man's addiction.

His humorous travel memoir, Taking the Kids to Italy, is a light read that tells the story of a disastrous family trip to Italy. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong, from illness to cold houses, but Merullo shines the light of laughter on all of it and creates a story that will appeal to armchair travelers and to any family that has met with vacation challenges.

His novel, Vatican Waltz, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal and was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the five best books of 2013 on the subject of religion. It tells the intriguing story of a young Catholic woman who believes she is being called by God to become a parish priest. Provocative without being irreverent, this book dovetails nicely with the changes being initiated by Pope Francis.

He's also the "as told to" writer of John DiNatale's memoir, The Family Business, which is the story of DiNatale's decades as a Boston private eye. Full of anecdotes both personal and professional, The Family Business provides an inside look into a profession that TV shows always get wrong.

Still available in various formats (including a collector's edition) is Merullo's recent novel, Lunch with Buddha, the long-awaited sequel to Breakfast with Buddha. Lunch with Buddha details a road trip from Washington State to North Dakota with the same wonderful characters as its predecessor. In a Starred Review, Kirkus Magazine called it, "a beautifully written and compelling story about a man's search for meaning that earnestly and accessibly tackles some well-trodden but universal questions. A quiet meditation on life, death, darkness and spirituality, sprinkled with humor, tenderness and stunning landscapes." Lunch with Buddha recently went into a third printing and will soon be available in audio format. The last book of the trilogy, Dinner with Buddha, will be published by Algonquin in June of 2015.

For more details go to or Roland Merullo's FaceBook page or website.

His best-selling novel, Breakfast with Buddha, recently went into its 17th printing. Like Golfing with God before it, and American Savior after it, Breakfast with Buddha treats questions of philosophy/spirituality from a multi-denominational viewpoint and with a healthy dose of humor. The novel has become a favorite with book clubs all over the country. It was based on an actual trip Merullo took from New York to North Dakota, most of it in the company of his wife and daughters. Another novel, Golfing with God, has just been re-optioned for film by Gemfilms. And American Savior has also just been optioned for film.

His Alex Award-winning 2011 novel, The Talk-Funny Girl, now out in paperback, is the story of a teenage girl in rural New Hampshire who escapes an abusive home life in a most unusual way. It follows a theme that can be found in almost all Merullo's books: a person overcoming some past trauma, whether that be the stress of war, illness, divorce, addiction, or early abuse.

The Alex Awards are given by the Young Adult Library Services Association to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.

Several old favorites--Leaving Losapas, A Russian Requiem, Passion for Golf, Revere Beach Boulevard, and Revere Beach Elegy, have just been reissued from AJAR Contemporaries, in print form and as e-books. AJAR has also brought out Roland's small book of writing advice, Demons of the Blank Page. Roland does workshops based on this book at libraries and other venues. Watch his FaceBook page for news of these workshops.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By K.Wagz VINE VOICE on August 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jesus Christ for President of the United States. I expected this book to be entertaining, somewhat amusing, maybe Pratchett like. I was right. I was also wrong. This was a fascinating political satire that challenges our political system, the media and indeed our very culture.

It does this in a way that is certainly entertaining. At times it is amusing. But essentially, it is so much more. This book forces us to look more deeply into our beliefs, and the way we live and believe. It forces the reader to see that there are options and that perhaps more than options, possibilities.

What would the country be like if we chose kindness over cruelty. Generosity over greed. Truth over lies.
Compelling stuff. It had the effect of making me more dissatisfied than ever with the status quo. I miss more than ever, something that we never really had.

Read this book. It doesn't preach to you. It is a quick read, it won't strain your brain, it will make you smile. It is certainly an easy read. But when you close the cover after you have read the last word. You will feel better about yourself. You will know just a little bit more about love.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By V. Marshall VINE VOICE on September 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel by Roland Merullo but with each page I turned I found myself thoroughly entertained. Often hilarious, especially in today's political climate, I laughed out loud many, many times at Merullo's remarkable humor. I loved the twisted logic Merullo used to create his media characters and found the puzzle of discovering who's who absolutely amusing, Chapter 36 is filled with subtle punches at the American media and how it reports elections in this country. Almost no current media "starlet" is left untouched; the names are enough to leave a reader rolling with laughter!

I have to say I began this novel afraid I would be taken into a scathing slant at either what has become Christian in America, or faced with the mockery of Christ. I was pleasingly surprised to find Merullo's prose to be both funny and profound while at the same time very grounded in the Gospels. To a non-religious but highly spiritually person I felt refreshed reading this novel and imagining the possibilities of Christ returning to our cynical and materialistic world and how he might deal with us all. Here we find Christ still compassionate, vulnerable and charismatic as he forms his band of modern disciples from yet another motley crew of people who are so touched by the man and his message they drop their semi-successful lives to run Christ's campaign. During the crazy campaign of a soul nobody believes in we find the innocent Christ riding bulls, surfing a wave and playing touch football in the mud the night before his modern last supper. I have to say Merullo knows his stuff and with a contemporary spin manages to revive the often politically manufactured Gospel into a profound teaching again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brian Smith VINE VOICE on September 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I picked this book up on a whim. Call it a divine appointment if you will. Just a few days before Amazon served it up to me as something I might like I was bemoaning our current political atmosphere and made the comment "Jesus Himself couldn't get elected in America". Lo and behold, then Roland Merullo's novel comes along. I had to read it.

Of course it's an unlikely story. Those critical of the book saying Jesus would never run for office remind me of people who don't get a the joke "A duck walks into a bar and says..." because, they say, ducks can't talk. The point of the book is not that Jesus would run for office. The point is what if Jesus did run for office. The story is narrated by a mediocre reporter that Jesus chooses to head up his campaign security. The disciples Jesus chooses to help him are like the disciples he chose in the Bible. You scratch your head saying "Why would he choose...?" They're confused people lacking confidence like all the rest of us. I think Roland Merullo did an excellent job of capturing the essence of Jesus. Jesus was a man who intrigued the intellectuals. The Pharisees and Saducees might have hated Him but obviously He was no intellectual lightweight. Jesus can charm the women. He's a man's man. He's loved by children. He's macho and sensitive at the same time. He's humorous. He's sharp tongued. He infinitely patient yet at times He becomes exasperated. Just as some see the Jesus of the Bible as warrior and some a pacifist, such is Roland Merullo's Jesus.

Some might complain that Roland's Jesus is too left leaning or his Jesus is too right leaning. That's the point! The Jesus of the Bible was also criticized when His views didn't meet expectations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By BermudaOnion VINE VOICE on January 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Russ Thomas is a reporter for WZIZ, a TV station in Massachusetts, when he is sent to report on the story of a young child who had fallen three stories, seemed dead, and came back to life when a stranger came up and touched him. Others were calling it a miracle, but Russ remained skeptical. Later, he's sent to a hospital where the same stranger has visited a young girl and seemingly cured her of a chronic illness.

The stranger becomes known as "The Good Visitor," and he turns out to be Jesus Christ. Jesus calls Russ on his private phone and tells him that he's running for President of the United States and would like for Russ to work on his campaign. Russ is not convinced at first, but finally agrees when Jesus visits Russ's girlfriend in a dream.

Jesus assembles a ragtag campaign team and heads out on the road as the candidate for The Divinity Party and chooses his mother as his running mate. Jesus runs an unusual campaign - he doesn't criticize his opponents and he's available for questions.

American Savior by Roland Merullo started out with a bang for me. The middle of the book, with all of it's campaign details, did drag a little bit, though. When it gets to the end of the campaign, the book really picked up again. It is worth reading for all of the questions it brings up. When a woman screams that the candidate is not Jesus,

"I might not be," he said slowly. "I might not be. But my question to you is this: would you know him if he came into your midst? If he came into your midst and did not look the way you expected him to look, and did not speak as you expected him to speak, would you know him?"

That really made me sit and think for a little while. This book is humorous as well as thought provoking and I enjoyed reading it.

Roland Merulla has written ten books, including Golfing with God and Breakfast with Buddha. He lives with his wife and children in Massachusetts.
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