GOLFING WITH GOD
Algonquin Books, October 2005
In a previous life, Herman "Hank" Fins-Winston had been a golf pro – an excellent teacher of the game who never quite made it on the circuit, having missed his one real shot at greatness. He now lives in a lovely condominium on the thirteenth fairway of one of heaven's 8,187 golf courses. God and His closest companions, you see, play the game often. And though Jesus never bothers to keep score, Buddha never takes a practice swing, and Moses doesn't consider it cheating when he parts the courses' water hazards, they all take the sport very seriously. In heaven, even God replaces His divots.
Hank's afterlife takes an unexpected turn when he is summoned to help a player whose game is in a slump. To his dismay, his new pupil is God Himself. Or Herself. Depending on the day. As they play the most heavenly courses in paradise and back on earth, Hank realizes that it's he who's learning the lessons – about fearing failure, about second chances, about the connectedness of all living things, about not taking the next breath for granted, and about our God-given ability to improve ourselves – one stroke at a time.
"Great and memorable golf novels are the rarest of literary treats. In Golfing with God, Roland Merullo has pulled off a small miracle of economy and charm – a beautifully told tale that will have you in its otherworldly grasp from the opening page. Thoughtful folks who love golf – or those who simply love a golfer – will find Merullo's adventure above the clouds a peek at heaven itself. The best golf novel I have ever read."
– James Dodson
"An unlikely but marvelous source of understanding and comfort... This is a biography of a spiritual journey with golf as its vehicle, a microcosm of what philosophically and spiritually nags at all human beings but which only a fortunate few can ever comprehend – God's intentions and our responses. Enriched by humor and ironies and unlikely encounters, the story rivets the reader, even those unschooled (as am I) in the intricacies and subtleties of golf. This is a ‘can't-put-it-down’ novel."
"Golfing with God is what the French would call a jeu d'esprit, a kind of tongue-in-cheek fantasy-parable-fable... Merullo writes such a graceful, compassionate and fluid prose that you cannot resist the characters' very real struggles and concerns. His prose is as wonderfully down-to-earth as his tale is heaven-sent. Will I take up golf? Never! Do I think Merullo is a fine, perceptive writer who can make you believe just about anything? Absolutely."
– Providence Journal
"Amid the laughs and playful banter, Golfing With God is a serious story of self-examination and growth, the hardest games of all... Amid the lightness of this tale is the deeper story of a man, much like the rest of us, looking to shed his pride and dampen his urges. With Golfing With God, Merullo ranks a place in current golf literature."
– Orlando Sentinel
"Golfing With God [may] sound like a crazy casserole... but Massachusetts author Roland Merullo pulls it off with an engaging plot, humor... and a theology that's humane."
– Boston Globe
"Merullo's tightly constructed social and philosophical novel hits both comedic high points and poignant moments of mankind in all its glorious, sorry state. Viewed from any angle, golf – and God – are well-charted subjects, yet Merullo gives us a tender story and a clean slice of life, full of smart, clean prose... Through his eyes, we see heaven as everything we pray for, and more."
– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Delightful little book... Made me feel... that golf was more than just a game, that each shot offered the opportunity for redemption and self-fulfillment... The theories on afterlife and deity are pure fun, regardless of one's religious convictions, and the themes resonate with anyone who has suffered the insecurities golfing can bring – or who has noticed the parallels between this great game and the lives we lead."
– Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Merullo won the Massachusetts Book Award in 2003 for his memoir, Revere Beach Elegy, and followed up that success with the romance A Little Love Story. This latest title will garner him even greater success... This New Age novel will appeal to fans of Alice Sebold and Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven; highly recommended for public libraries everywhere."
– Library Journal Starred Review
"Wonderful skills of observation and reflection... Some fine prose and a genuine sense of spiritual longing makes this better than the premise would suggest."
– Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Merullo blends knowledge of the game with glimpses into his spiritual journey in this engaging story of golf, the after-life and the spiritual education of one's soul."
– Publishers Weekly