Almighty Me

God, who has been an infrequent visitor in recent fiction, makes his presence felt in Robert Bausch’s third novel, Almighty Me. True, the Creator doesn’t actually put in an appearance, but He does designate a know-it-all car salesman named Charlie Wiggins ”to exercise the deity’s power free of charge.” After an interview with an angelic intermediary named Chet, Wiggins decides to accept the offer. He begins his tour of duty with a couple of penny-ante miracles — curing his boss’ speech impediment and tampering with the weather. Both of his good works have unfortunate consequences: By restoring the boss’ powers of speech, Wiggins unleashes a lecherous bully, and by conjuring up snowstorms and balmy days, he creates floods and twisters throughout the state. ”I was afraid I would get careless,” he muses, missing the point, ”and do something that would cause terrible horrors for the world-maybe ruin the environment, or foster murderous bacteria.” Meanwhile, Wiggins faces another dilemma: Should he use his powers to shore up his failing marriage, or is it wrong to meddle with human emotions? These ethical complications give Almighty Me its substance. But the narrator’s voice, whining and comically defensive, gives the novel its charm, so it’s a vague disappointment to see Wiggins get mushy and affirmative at the end. B+

Almighty Me
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