cover image Holyman


Susan Trott. Riverhead Books, $18 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-002-6

Trott, who has won a wide readership with her individualistic, witty novels (Divorcing Daddy), may touch some readers with this charming and quirky, if sometimes woolly, fable about a 72-year-old holy man named Joe and the pilgrims to whom he dispenses advice. Joe, who likes to allude to Jesus and Buddha, is very human and fallible, clandestinely taking pills for his heart ailment. Most visitors are rushed through his mountain hermitage in 20 seconds; he rarely talks to them but many seem to benefit anyway, letting go of egotism, envy, arrogance and other spiritual ills. Joe's wisdom too often seems lifted from fortune cookies (``Your life, stripped to its essence, is pure gold''). He glibly recycles Eastern ideas, as when he tells a grieving widower that his wife ``was never yours. Nothing that you have is yours,'' and he occasionally slips into New Age psychobabble (``Einstein completely abandoned his ego.... Then he was free to think, free to release his intuitive power''). But his basic message--tolerance, overcoming greed and ignorance, recognizing the inherent holiness of people and nature--shines through Trott's prose. BOMC and QPB selection. (Mar.)