Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow is the type of novel that all wannabe authors like myself want to write as we get older. It ably captures the birth and coming of age of God's only daughter, Julie Katz, and depicts her relationship with many different people, including her realist Jewish father, Murray, her homosexual best friend, Phoebe, and many others.
This is a book that defies attempts to be classified. It's a comedy, a drama, a religious parody, a societal parody, and probably a million other categories that I cannot even think of. Perhaps the best category for this book, however is that it is a life. It is the life of the half-sister of Jesus and her attempts to save the world and discover who she is and how she fits in the world.
I have passed this book around to my friends, and most of them agree that it is one of the best books they have ever read. It gives messages on religion, society, and life, but is never preachy or excessive. Its often wry sense of humor is matched by its often cynical views of life. The novel takes a realistic stance on the Devil, Jesus Christ, and God as well. (In a crushing blow to most religions, through most of the book, God is referred to as "Mother" and "She" by Julie, putting a new view on the use of theological pronouns.)
However, the biggest gem in this book's crown is the characterization. After a few pages, Julie becomes a real person, with faults and pluses, charming traits and not-so-good ones. She makes mistakes as a real person does, and is never an infallible offspring of God. (Neither, we find out, was Jesus.)
The only problem with this book lies in its scarcity. James Morrow, it seems, has not been discovered for the literary genius he is as of yet, and his books are very hard to find. Only Begotten Daughter is still "orderable" as one bookstore clerk put it, but none of his other books are. This book is well worth the wait and trouble it takes to get. Perhaps with enough reader support, publishers will begin to discover that this writer, with the proper print run and distribution, will become very, very big. He certainly deserves it. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.