From Jeff Munroe
Being good is complicated.
I’ve just read two British novels, written over 150 years apart, that make that point. It fascinates me that of all the titles ascribed to Jesus, the one he rejected was being called “good.” No wonder -- these novels show how difficult “good” can be. (Both books also, in their own way, skewer the Church of England, but that’s another topic for another day.)
The first is How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. I loved Hornby’s movies About a Boy and An Education and gleefully jumped at this book when I found it tucked away amid the treasures of a used bookstore. Hornby is hilarious and compassionate and insightful and all of these qualities pour out in this novel. Katie, the main character, is a goodperson; she cares about third-world debt and homelessness, she “saves the odd life” as a doctor and she’s a wife and mother. Except she’s not that good at being a wife or mother. She’s married to a lout who writes a newspaper column called The Angriest Man in Holloway (the name of their London suburb), and she opens the novel by asking for a divorce.
What happens next surprised me. Instead of exploring the pain of a relationship going south, the novel takes a wonderful twist when Katie’s husband undergoes a dramatic spiritual awakening, aided by a mystic named DJ GoodNews. “I believe all the things you believe,” he tells her, “except I am going to walk the talk.”