on October 15, 2003
This is an atheist novel, not merely a secular novel. Many novels, including whodunnits, science fiction and romance novel are secular, in that religion is not mentioned or does not play any role. But that merely means, the author does not bring up the topic of religion, as we mostly don't in everyday life. This book is about the main character having no religion and god being an illogical construct. We can know this for one thing, because the back cover says so, and for another the literature that came with the book says the novel "raises compelling questions about religion that open-minded readers, no matter what their beliefs, will find stimulating," So how do you write a novel of unbelief, a subject that is essentially philosophical and cerebral, and not exactly the stuff of derring do and excitement?
Start with a Bildungsroman, a novel of growing up and coming of age. In this a world ethnicity and religion are closely entwined, in other words New York City. Give the hero an Italian Catholic father married to a Russian Jewish mother, and conflict is built in. Being neither fish nor fowl, the protagonist grows up without adhering to either or any religion. Many individuals growing up in a secular family are able to carry their unbelief lightly and simply ignore the mumbo-jumbo of the believers. Not so this character. In addition to two ethnic religions, the family is dysfunctional in many other ways, financial, emotional, educational and as parents. Add to this the hero's fiery antagonistic temper, and you are ready for some explosive events. The main character tends to lead with his chin when confronted with religion, and consequently often creates his own troubles. In fact, the most unbelievable aspect of the novel is how a character so intelligent, can be so stupid in some of his everyday choices.
Let me make it clear this is not some philosophical treatise on faith and religion. On the contrary, we follow the main character through a long and eventful life filled with many adventures, through love, marriage, and family. Only from time to time does he stub his toe on the god question in such a way he is made to feel an outsider. The novel may be regarded as a "seeker" novel, in that the protagonist spends much of his life searching for a niche in life where he fits, where he is happy, and where he can unfold his talents and live up to his potential.
His school years are marked by being the odd kid, the one without religion, the one that doesn't fit in. After high school he follows a number of low paying, dead end jobs, and takes on a marriage long before he is mature enough or financially able. Only slowly, over the years does he find mentors who accept and believe in him. Gradually he wrestles himself into an education and an acceptable life. Constantly he explores additional interests or money making schemes, some of which get him into trouble. And, throughout his life, various members of his birth family pursue him for help, for succor, and to add yet another burden.
At this point you may think, OK a made up life about an unbeliever. Here is the kicker. The novel is largely autobiographical. How can I tell? It reads like an actual life, it gives too many details, names, places, times which are characteristic of biography, but which novelists generally obscure. Enough so, that I asked the author, who confirmed: "Almost everything in the novel is autobiographical." and "Feel free to say that you have the author's word that it is mostly so."
If you want to understand how an atheist gets that way, why did he lose the faith in the supernatural everybody else finds so easy to hold and keep. Here is the well written, attractive story of one unbeliever. It is a good read.
on September 30, 2003
Outside, Looking In - a novel by Gil Gaudia, Phd.
2003 Xlibris, Philadelphia
306 pp Paperback & Hardcover
[...] or (888)795-4274
Reviewed by Nancy Jensen
Gil Gaudia's debut novel, Outside,Looking In, is a thought-provoking tale of one man's struggle to find a sense of place. As an atheist, in a society swarming with believers, Gene Geminni finds himself frequently "outside, looking in" and in conflict with many of those he encounters in the mainstream-the casual believers, the hypocrites, the frightened, the devout and the fanatical. With humor and pathos, Gaudia follows his protagonist from early childhood to his eventual retirement as a college professor. The story's gripping, page-turning scenarios are counter-balanced with comic moments, as Gaudia takes the reader along on Gene's personal journey towards maturity and enlightenment. The novel's underlying theme centers on Gene's quest, as an outspoken Atheist, to understand and come to terms with why he is always on the outside, looking in.
The story opens with young Gene attempting to understand and bond with a distant and secretive father, Victor, who has great difficulty seeing beyond his own needs. The mysterious Victor, an elevator operator in New York City's garment district, is constantly in questionable financial trouble, and the precocious, sensitive youngster is often witness to his father's humiliating maneuvers to enlist the extended family to bail him out. Those with psychological leanings and an interest in current talk of dysfunctional families will be immediately drawn in by young Gene's conflicted father-feelings . . . his need to bond with this enigmatic man, and his slowly simmering anger, fueled by Victor's remoteness. Amateur Freudians with a penchant for Oedipal explanations will find much to dissect in Gene's final moments with Victor. The reader will be hard-pressed to resist this youngster, whose psychological insight, sensitivity, and perceptual acuity reaches beyond that of the adults around him. Except for Uncle Louis, who teaches young Gene an early and valuable lesson, Gene, in his own family, and especially with his father, is on the outside looking in.
Throughout the novel, in his thirst for knowledge and information, Gene is constantly asking questions, to the perturbation of many who encounter his slow-burning distaste for cowardly acquiescence. The reader will be touched when Gene is shamed by a tight-lipped, callous and mean-spirited teacher, who cannot tolerate his innocent, but thoughtful inquisitions. It is at this juncture that we see Gene beginning to adopt a rebel stance. But, unlike James Dean in the popular 50's movie, this rebel has a cause . . . to jostle the intellect hidden under what he perceives to be the obedient mien of believers.
Gaudia, with a Phd in psychology, is a licensed pilot and a seasoned sailor. An Atheist himself, he has chosen the novel format, coupled with his varied life experiences, to invite his readers to critically examine their indoctrinated belief systems. There are moments when this novel is brilliant in its positive argument for examination of the existence of a supreme being. For those who enjoy the psychological excursion, there is rich detail about a family in turmoil, and a youngster learning to figure it all out. The description of life in a New York City tenement for a child of mixed ethnic heritage is heart-rending.
Take the plunge and read this book, but be ready to look your long-held beliefs squarely in the eye. Gaudia and his hero Gene will accept nothing less.
on August 12, 2003
This first-time novel, written by an Atheist, is about one man's struggle to find a sense of place in a religious society. The hero is followed from his childhood through retirement years. There are many comical moments, as well as much pathos to be found in this book about a half-Jewish, half-Italian kid, growing up in a New York tenement, struggling to bond with a remote and mysterious father, and a mother who relies on him more than she should.
If you enjoy reading about dysfunctional family dynamics and have a bent for the psychological,you will love this book, as I did.Being a New Yorker myself, the book brought me back to my own childhood on the streets of my beloved city, and elicited crispy clear memories. But there is also a serous side to this novel. The protagonist is an isolated outsider constantly questioning, and rebelling against a religious culture. Unlike James Dean in the popular 50's movie, this rebel has a cause...to jostle the intellect. There are moments when this novel is brilliant in its argument for the examination of the existence of a supreme being.
The author is an Atheist and one can conclude that this novel is semi-autobiographical. I read the book with an open mind and loved every minute of it.