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Only Begotten Daughter
By James Morrow

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Only Begotten Daughter

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Only Begotten Daughter
By James Morrow
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (2003)
ISBN: 0-7862-5039-9
Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - September 12, 2003

If you wanted to write a book that would annoy the largest number of religious and social groups, you'll have your work cut out beating James Morrow's Only Begotten Daughter. This book is an equal opportunity work of blasphemy that will equally offend Jews and Christians alike. It also derides the 'right to life' movement, and well as radical environmental movements and conspiracy theorists. In short, this is a novel that you will find difficult to put down, either because you want to see just how far Morrow will go with his sacrilege, or because you find it such an entertaining read.

Only Begotten Daughter is an eccentric, and well-crafted story, about Jesus's sister. Julie, as this divinely begotten child is called, was conceived from the sperm of Murray Jacob Katz and a 'holy ovum'. Murray Katz is an antisocial, celibate, Jewish lighthouse keeper. Leastwise, he lives in a decommissioned lighthouse and he lights the light to commemorate special occasions. A devout sperm donor, Katz is surprised to learn, as the story opens, that his latest donation has turned into an embryo without being introduced into an ovum.

With the aid of an artificial womb, Katz carries the pregnancy to term. He had rescued / stolen the fetus from the Preservation Institute, where he went to donate sperm, just before it was firebombed by the Reverend Billy Milk and his band of neo-Christian zealots known as the Revelationists. Due to the firebombing, everyone at the Institute thought that the fetus had been destroyed. Therefore, they did not interfere with Katz bringing the fetus to term - something they would have tried to stop if they had known about it.

Katz is aided in raising his divine child by Georgina Sparks, a white lesbian who had impregnated herself with the sperm of Marcus Bass, a black biologist. The resulting child was named Phoebe, and she grows up with Julie. Together, this foursome: Katz, Julie, Georginia, and Phoebe, form a strange, but oddly functional family unit.

Julie has all the powers that her deified half-brother had. She can walk on water (which she begins to do at the precocious age of two), resurrect the dead, and turn water into wine. Let it suffice to say that Katz and Georgina have their hands full raising their two daughters together. While the story revolves around a "...hermit (Katz), a bastard (Phoebe), a dyke (Georgina), and a deity (Julie)..." (Pg 71), the real focus of this story is Julie's coming-of-age and how she decided what she wants to do with her life. This task is complicated not only by the fact that she is being raised in New Jersey, but also by the fact the Devil shows up to complicate her life.

Only Begotten Daughter is a fascinating journey into the fantastical world of 'what-if' and the problems that might be faced by a modern day Messiah. Morrow has crafted a fine and beguiling story around Julie's life. Due to the nature of this story, you'll either love it or hate it with all your essence! Personally, I think that it is a great satire, and having lived through the 1970's, I really appreciated Morrow's sense of humor and his social commentary about fundamentalism and all its varied forms - and consequences.


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