cover image Chocolate Jesus

Chocolate Jesus

Stephan Jaramillo. Berkley Publishing Group, $12 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-425-16309-2

Hailed for his debut (Going Postal), Jaramillo returns with an amusing but unmemorable novel about a depraved crew of characters whose ridiculous schemes and schlock adventures conspire both to bankrupt a chocolate factory and to redeem the world. In the plebeian town of Valley, Calif., compulsive gambler and phone-sex addict Sydney Corbet lives with his media-watchdog brother Marty, who has just been discharged from the Koala Center for the ""mildly neurotic."" Together, the two manage to sell Wilbur Bea, debauched heir to a candy fortune, on an idea to market a chocolate Jesus. Peripheral characters include a vegan preacher, a Mexican immigrant smugly named Jesus and Orville Scrimshaw, devotee of Western Union, Remington typewriters and other outdated technologies. Despite a tame, derivative comic sense (think Tom Robbins on a bad day; Mark Leyner on a very bad day), Jaramillo has an endearing sympathy for his goofy characters that belies the novel's rather laboriously cynical tone and lends charm to this pleasant but lightweight weekend read. (May)