Thornton Wilder’s 1935 novel. I read it from my beautiful Library of America edition.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Times Read: 1
Traveling textbook salesman George Brush butts heads with others by adhering to a strict religious and moral code.
A mostly episodic tale in the style of Wilder’s The Cabala and Theophilus North, but instead of solving the problems of others like those leads, George Brush leaves a trail of angry and perplexed people behind.
I hate this complaint, but I can’t figure out the point of Heaven’s My Destination. Why did Wilder write it? What is he trying to say? Brush grapples with his faith – questioning it, losing it, seemingly finding it again – but he seems to be at the same place in life in the end as he was in the beginning (perhaps a little more mature…?).
In any case, Brush belongs to that genre where a simple man, speaking his truth, causes ripples around him. (Being There is of a similar vein.) In these tales, we’re supposed to see the virtue of simplicity and faith but Wilder seems to be turning it on its head. Brush is often wrong. He meets people who believe in evolution and science (and women who smoke! God forbid!) who defend their beliefs much more eloquently than Brush. And he refuses to engage in dialogue with them, instead arguing and stalking away.
There’s also a Vonnegut flavor here; somewhere between Player Piano and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, except that Wilder loves all of his characters and all of humanity. He sees people as misguided, not inherently evil.
Even if I’m unsure of the point of all this, I enjoy spending time with Wilder’s characters and prose.
Because I read a Library of America edition containing several other Wilder books, the page numbers are strange (250-408). There’s a very good Notes section in the back that I will use for references when possible. When I do that, I’ll include the page it’s on.