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Golfing with God: A Novel of Heaven and Earth Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1ST edition (October 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125018
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Merullo (Passion for Golf) blends knowledge of the game with glimpses into his spiritual journey in this engaging story of golf, the after-life and "the spiritual education of one soul." Former golf professional Herman Fins-Winston has been enjoying heaven between reincarnations long enough to play several of its 8,187 excellent golf courses. When God, who finds golf his only relaxation after minding the universe, has trouble short putting because of the "yips," He (alternately called "She") summons Herman to help. It turns out that God has a "divine" swing, uses old persimmon woods and regularly hits 390-yard tee shots. Merullo infuses his own brand of theology into the story. (On getting into heaven: "You only have to try, to want it, to be sincere about wanting it. You have to not have hurt anyone too badly in your most recent previous life.") The first section, set in heaven, is stronger than the second, in which God (in the persona of a young trophy wife whom Herman dreams of taking to bed) travels with Herman back to earth. There, they play some of the best golf courses in search of the golf greatness he missed in his previous life. Inevitably, Herman's golfing prowess leads to a showdown with evil. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"No!" the reader of golf fiction screams. "Not another novel starring God as a golfer!" Yes, the game has its spiritual side, and, yes, its devotees often experience a lifelike mix of transcendence and frustration, but why must the Almighty worm his way into so many fictional foursomes? But then, just as the outlandish premise of Merullo's novel becomes clear--a failed touring pro, now playing for fun on one of Heaven's 8,187 golf courses, is called upon to help God (Herself an avid golfer) cure a nagging case of the yips--we find ourselves turning pages rather than throwing the book into the nearest bunker. Why, for God's sake? Perhaps because Merullo, author of the critically acclaimed Revere Beach trilogy, writes with wit and subtlety rather than trying to pound inspiration into our heads with a titanium driver. And, best of all, he gets the golf right: precise, well-constructed descriptions of courses and shot making, revealing a respect for the game itself, not just its potential as metaphor. If you must play golf with God, pray it's this one who shows up on the first tee. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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 twelve novels and five 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 several new books out in late 2013. His humorous travel memoir, Taking the Kids to Italy, 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 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."

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

His best-selling novel, Breakfast with Buddha, recently went into its 15th 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 optioned for film by Gemfilms.

His Alex Award-winning 2011 novel, The Talk-Funny Girl, recently 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.

Merullo has a side-speciality, golf writing. His articles and columns appear frequently in Golf World Magazine, and his golf books include GOLFING WITH GOD, THE ITALIAN SUMMER, AND PASSION FOR GOLF.

He also writes regularly for the Boston Globe Op-Ed page.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 51 customer reviews
I read this book in two sittings.
I think that God has a wonderful sense of humor and compassion for our human condition.
Christine J Braue
If you love golf, you'll love this book.
Brian Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My favorite American storyteller is Stephen Vincent Benet. Roland Merullo, author of Golfing With God certainly has Benet's storytelling ability, giving us a well-crafted story.

In Golfing With God Herman (Hank) Fins-Winston, has just arrived in heaven with its 3,000-plus golf courses. Readers see his past as a new touring pro who blows THE putt that would have sent him to the top. In order to help Hank, God ask him for help with his/her short game. Throughout the book, Hank receives the education that he missed--the education of his soul.

Merullo looks at both golf and spirituality with loving humor. A wonderful bit is when Hank has a foursome with Jesus, Mary and Moses. Moses cheats by parting the water on the hazard, and Jesus is wonderfully patient with his mother who consistently shoots double and triple bogeys, if she's fortunate.

With gentle humor, Merullo also builds tension as Hank travels from earthly course to earthly course with God, a trip that leads to his ultimate match with Rogan, a.k.a. as Mephistopheles and Beelzebub. The match's description is superlative both of the play-by-play and the famous Augusta course.

The author intertwines observations about the relationship between golf and spirituality. His overriding emphasis is on the spirituality of people--not their religious beliefs. Later Hank observes, "Much of the beauty of the game of golf lies in the quiet dignity with which it is played... Think of what earthly life might be like if those same rules of etiquette were applied more widely."

While Merullo lushly describes his setting, he seems to prefer his story over his characters.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Coco on March 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best book I've ever read, and I've given copies to all my closest friends. It is appealing to those who are outwardly religious and those who aren't. I read it periodically and love it more with every reading.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Adam Craig on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Herman Fins-Winston, or Hank, as he prefers to be called, was a professional golfer in his previous life. A young, talented golfer with a bright future until one day, at the Western Pennsylvania Open, he missed a gimme putt, and he fell apart completely. Hank fell off the tour and became an extremely successful golf instructor, but he was always deeply unhappy and disappointed in himself. In heaven, Hank lives in a condominium on the El Rancho Obispo country club. One day, he gets an offer he can't refuse: help out God on His (or Her) golf game. Hank plays a few rounds in Heaven, a couple with God, one with Buddha, and one with Jesus, Mary, and Moses. In the second part of the book, Hank and God go down to earth to go on an ultimate golfer's vacation, including rounds at Augusta and Greenbrier.

During this trip to earth, Hank realizes that he is not the one doing the teaching; he is the student. Throughout all the rounds of golf played, God is grooming Hank to overcome all of his earthly desires and become a "great champion."

Golfing With God is a very entertaining novel, and a real page-turner. While the overarching spirituality of the tale is a little convoluted, Roland Merullo does an amazing job of interlocking spiritual meaning with the game of golf. Many golfers believe golf is tied into your inner spirit, but Merullo takes it literally in this novel. God, who appears as a young, beautiful woman for most of the novel, is a very complex character. Merullo does an admirable job of trying to make God's infinite love and forgiveness apparent and vivid throughout the novel.

Part One of the novel, which takes place entirely in heaven, is the stronger part of the novel.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By andris virsnieks on December 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Play golf with God! With a plot like that, I read it quickly to see what happens. My review title gives you a good idea as to what happens but see for yourself. It is a short story worth reading, if the time spent reading does not take you away from actually playing golf. In Seattle the rain is now setting all time records.

Merullo's story could help you with the emotional/ mental of your game. I doubt it will do anything for your swing.

I subtract one star, because I was looking for for more fascinating detail about golf to be worked into the plot. But I can see another reader holding back a star, because they were looking for more about God.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian Smith VINE VOICE on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The image of heaven I was given in Sunday school and in those old hymns sounded more like Hell than Heaven to me. Sitting around on clouds, streets of gold, singing songs for 10,000 years just as a warm up?

No, give me Roland Merullo's heaven where heaven is a place with more opportunities for growth, a few challenges and the chance to partake of some earthly pleasures.

Roland Merullo's novel "Golfing with God" is the second book by him that I have read. The first one I read was "American Savior" about Jesus' return to earth to run in the Presidential election. I enjoyed "American Savior". So, I thought I would enjoy "Golfing with God".

Roland Merullo has a knack for weaving spiritual lessons into stories that are engaging and funny while they are making you think about spiritual principles. In this, and in American Savior, the main characters have the opportunity to meet with Jesus and God, get to know them and ask the questions I'd ask if given the opportunity. Golfing with God's main character is Herman Fins-Winston, an English golfer who came within a whisper of making it on the pro tour. Herman (who prefers to be called Hank) is enjoying his stay in heaven after his life as a teaching pro when he's approached by one of God's helpers who offers him the opportunity to help God with the "yips". God, it turns out, likes a challenge. So, to play golf, He limits Himself to a human mind one that has lost its confidence on the greens and reaches out to Hank for help. As you may quickly guess, there's a lot more to it than that.

The story is a story of self-discovery as Hank plays golf in heaven and on Earth with the likes of God, Buddha, Mary and Jesus. Roland doesn't make the mistake of trying to get too deeply into the head of the character of God.
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