Bob Mitchell,
Match Made in Heaven
(Kensington, 2007)

The set-up (or backswing, if you will) of Match Made in Heaven is that of a seasoned pro: the protagonist, Elliot Goodman, is rushed to the OR with a heart attack. Praying for his life, God appears to Elliot and asks why his life should be spared. Not able to answer to the Almighty's satisfaction, Elliot finds himself transported to the links for the golf round of -- and for -- his life. Win, and Elliot gets his life back. Lose, and it's all over.

An added twist has Elliot golfing against 18 of history's famous persons, from Joan of Arc to John Lennon, from Marilyn Monroe to Leonardo Da Vinci. In the course of this golf round, each of Elliot's foes reminds him of life's essential philosophical lessons. Yet (to continue with the golf metaphors) the book's follow-through is not that of a seasoned pro but that of a weekend-warrior. Yes, there are bright spots, but there are dubbed shots as well.

But let's tee off with the bright spots: The author's creativity serves him well, and seemingly minor touches such as Moses's "Burning Bush Country Club" logo and Joan of Arc's "Nike Air: Mail" (chain mail armor, get it?) show a clever attention to detail.

As far as content is concerned, the repartee Elliot shares with most of his opponents is well wrought -- W.C. Fields, in particular, is well captured -- and the author must have done considerable research in order to make these scenes believable. To highlight a few of the others: John Lennon teaches Elliot to lighten up, which is a very salient lesson for many of us; the Edgar Allan Poe chapter contains a surprise conclusion that propels its lesson extremely well; the Socrates chapter contains excellent dialogue; the Leonardo Da Vinci chapter posits, and provides credible support for, the idea that Da Vinci may have invented golf; and that Abraham Lincoln might not have been as honest as we believe him to be is an interesting supposition. All these things contribute to making the book very readable.

Now about those chili-dips. First, the author goes into too much detail when describing the golf shots and play-by-play of each hole. One might argue that whether Elliot wins or loses the match is the heart of the book and thus deserves such extensive coverage. Fair enough. But these passages prove somewhat dry even for a golf enthusiast such as the reviewer.

The second drawback of the book is the author's over-reliance on cliches. A partial list of those teed up by the author include, "slurping suds, chomping at the bit, loaded for bear, you could hear a pin drop, and my heart stopped beating." For new writers, employing such language is somewhat understandable. However, in coming up with such an interesting premise for the book, the author has proven himself to be a creative individual. Thus, the reviewer's wish that this creativity had been more utilized vis a vis language choice is not misplaced.

On the front cover of the book, bestselling author James Patterson delivers this gracious praise for Match Made in Heaven: "This daring book is a miracle and quite possibly a classic." This reviewer humbly disagrees. This is a fine first outing, but it's not exactly on par with a classic.

review by
Jim Curtiss

29 September 2007

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