Gabriel Bell is a grumpy 44-year old web journalist irritated by the accumulating disappointments of life. He and his girlfriend Ellie want to start a family, but Gabriels has so few sperm he can name them and knit them flippers. So it’s IVF, which is expensive. Losing his job was bad enough, but getting run over and waking up to find himself in a therapy group run by angels really annoys him.
In Gabriels’ group are a professional killer and his last victim, as well as the woman whose car put Gabriel and herself in a coma. From this therapeutic community, just beneath Heaven, they can see the lives of those they have left behind and how they cope. Will the one hit wonder resurrect his Eighties band for a reunion tour? And can Ellie and her friends retrieve what they need from Gabriel’s comatose body, so that she at least can finish what they started?
If the group do well in therapy they may be a allowed to pass into Heaven, or go back to finish their lives. If not, it’s Hell. Or worse, more therapy.
Have you ever wanted to find a book that is equally hilarious as it is heartbreaking, thought-provoking and moving, gentle and yet action-packed? You need to read Gabriel’s angel. It is a truly unique book.
Part of the beauty of it is just how easy it is to read – I got through this book so quickly and smoothly, like a hot knife through butter. But while it’s easy to read, it’s certainly not because the writing is simple or not trying hard enough, it’s just because the writing style is so crystal clear and yet so inviting at the same time. It has a very original concept at the heart of it, which makes it appealing to me in a literary world swamped with millions of stories that are so similar to each other. The idea of there being a celestial group counselling facility somewhere in the astral plane between life and death is both hilarious and fascinating. How do you go about tackling such a concept?
Mark A. Radcliffe takes this idea and runs off with it, producing a novel full of humour and philosophical messages. At the heart there are a number of very different character types – Gabriel, the main protagonist, who is innately good but is struggling with the stress of being made redundant and going through IVF. Yvonne, a successful but bitter woman who was murdered by the evil Kevin who has no moral compass whatsoever. There is Julie, the woman who accidentally crashed into Gabriel and caused them both to go into comas, who had the misfortune of having to take part in a counselling section in limbo just as she was starting to find real happiness. There is Christopher, an angel who suffers constant internal turmoil as he second-guesses the morality of all of his own actions and decisions. Clemetius, the main ‘counsellor’ angel, shows himself to be a dodgy character more and more throughout the story – showing that even those who are meant to be ‘perfect’ in Heaven can’t pull this off.
There is also a parallel narrative that is going on on Earth involving Gabriel’s bereaved wife and her best friend, and Julie’s ex-boyfriend and his disappointing life and unrealised dreams. Hilarious antics occur both after death and back on earth, with hare-brained schemes to retrieve sperm from a comatose IVF patient to desperate attempts to reform an old 80’s band with has-been old men. With such a wide spectrum of colourful characters and events, this book was endlessly entertaining.
It explores questions such as: Who deserves a second chance or redemption? Has the way you have lived your life been worthy or wasteful? What is right or wrong, and can anyone be 100% good or bad? Does the world owe us anything? Can anything be intrinsic when all we do nowadays is question how everything works? Gabriel’s Angel completely modernises and rewrites the idea of God and how he works, reflecting the ever-changing nature of today’s society.
‘Think of it like this. A modern God, a God in touch with the nuances and struggles of modern life, would know that the things people do are not necessarily indicative of who they are. That sometimes, quite often in fact, we need to look beyond the actions of a person and see inside them to truly understand what motivates them and who, in fact, they are. Moreover, a modern God would recognise that it is by addressing the inner turmoil that can haunt you all, that one might truly address sin.’
…Finally Yvonne spoke. ‘Oh my,’ she said softly. ‘Someone has killed God and replaced him with a social worker.’
Gabriel’s Angel is published by the amazingly successful independent publisher Bluemoose Books and I enjoyed it so much. There is no question about it: if you don’t give this book a chance, you’re making a mistake.