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God's Favorite: A Novel Hardcover – March 9, 2000
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Lawrence Wright is the author of several books of nonfiction, including the gripping Remembering Satan (1994), about an epidemic of "recovered" memories of Satanic ritual abuse in Olympia, Washington. God's Favorite is his first work of fiction, but it more accurately falls into the category of what Truman Capote called the nonfiction novel, since it is based in historical fact (the ouster of General Manuel Noriega in Panama)--but dialogue, description, and characters are embellished and in some cases entirely invented. As a political thriller, it is a genuine page-turner. Wright's prose has always been full of grit and electricity, but he has fun with fiction in a way he couldn't as a reporter.
At the heart of the book are two men living somewhat parallel lives: General Noriega and the Papal Nuncio--a burnt out, disgraced priest who revels in corruption: "He adored the secrecy, the scheming and plotting, the intricate connivings, the hidden meanings that made life in Panama a study in human duplicity." It's an atmosphere Wright captures masterfully--"a country that dines on gossip," the Chorrillo neighborhood where "rotten buildings slumped against one another like a bunch of packing boxes that had been left out in the rain." Moving through various private and public lives, Wright reveals how both men come to fear for their lives in a virtually lawless country where torture is an art form.
Like a superior made-for-TV miniseries, Wright's book brings the past alive in the form of melodrama. Noriega, the acne-scarred, sexually voracious dictator is a truly twisted villain: spooky and pathetic at once. One of the book's greatest scenes happens aboard a yacht, the Macho III, where Noriega and Oliver North are being waited on by a topless stewardess named Chiquita. North delivers the bad news that with his best pal William Casey dead, Noriega may be indicted for drug trafficking. As he talks, the American quaffs carrot juice and eats ribs, wiping sauce from his chin and trying not to ogle the girls. Meanwhile, Noriega tells him, "I think it's a sin to eat the flesh of other animals. Of course, you should enjoy your meal, don't worry about the moral consequences." It's a scene so twisted it made me feel positively patriotic. --Emily White
From Library Journal
Wright, an award-winning New Yorker staff writer, here follows Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriego as he flees U.S. troopsAall the way to the Vatican Embassy. Look for the motion picture.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
I can't fathom why this novel has had so little exposure. His publishers must be short-sighted or loony or both. I wish I had spoken up sooner here with a review since I read the book shortly after it was published. It remains in the top three of best thrillers I've read.
This is a truly delightful experience, crisp in style, engaging in content and memorable in the final experience. Recommended.
definatly worth the reading.
Tony as portrayed understands his predicament, and he is cynically prepared to do anything to stay in power. He must stay in power, because, ugly and deformed, he would never be respected without it. One sub-plot is that he is in love and thinks that money and power is all that holds the free spirited Carmen to him.
There is a parallel story to Tony’s and this is that of the nuncio who has been warned by the Vatican to stay out of politics. This is impossible because the nuncio has an idealist young priest on his staff and Tony wants to make contact. There are cameos for Oliver North and Pablo Escobar and a host of colorful characters like the deluded Roberto Diaz Herrera and brash General Honeycutt.
The thoughts of Tony and the dialog throughout had me turning pages.
I checked Wikipedia to see how much of this was true. I saw that Noreiga was interested in the occult and eastern religions as the author shows and that in jail he “found Jesus”. As I write this he is still alive in a Panama jail (he served his US time) and is suing Activision for its depiction of him in a videogame.
If you are a purist regarding historical fiction, this is not for you, but if you want a fast paced novel loaded with irony based on true events you will love it.