Will Clarke,
The Worthy: A Ghost's Story
(Simon & Schuster, 2006)

The Worthy is, as Will Clarke has subtitled his sophomore novel, "A Ghost's Story." Privileged Louisiana State University Gamma Chi pledge Conrad Sutton III is a ghost. He was slaughtered by golden boy fraternity brother Ryan Hutchins, a girlfriend-abusing, self-centered, spoiled, handsome Southern brat. As a ghost, Conrad makes revenge on Ryan his singular goal.

Clarke's novel is centered on Conrad's revenge against Ryan. The plot meanders quite a bit, as Conrad comes in contact with the plain-spoken, spiritual African fraternity cook, a Bible-thumping virginal co-ed, his former girlfriend and the new pledge whose body Conrad inhabits when he needs to make contact with the physical world.

The Worthy is chock-full of shocking fraternity hazing and glimpses into the distorted world view of rich Southern socialites. As a compelling story, however, it falls short. Clarke has innovative ideas about the spiritual world, and the book bills itself as a religious experience, but the execution is half-hearted and employs a stale deus ex machina ending.

For a purely voyeuristic look at college debauchery, look no further. Readers seeking a truly comic look at religion should pick up Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Clarke's debut novel (Lord Vishnu's Love Handles) succeeds as a zany otherworldly romp, but his follow-up is mediocre at best.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
26 May 2007

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