Can I take a raincheck? How’s Thursday?

“There’s no way that Jesus can have looked like that, I thought to myself as I sat in the parish office staring at the painting of the Last Supper.”

The return of Jesus to the modern Earth is a fairly standard subject that appears in recent fiction, and I should know because I seem to have read most of the novels on the topic. This hasn’t been done intentionally, but as I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before on this blog, I find the whole idea really interesting. Although not in the least bit religious myself, I retain a strange curiosity about religion – why does it drive people to behave the way they do, and what were the people in the Bible really like, if of course they even really existed?

In Apocalypse Next Tuesday, we hear the events from German thirty-something Marie Woodward, possibly one of the most average people on the planet. She’s just jilted her fiancé Sven at the altar and is entering into a downward spiral of depression, not helped by the fact her dad has fallen for a Belarusian woman younger than Marie, and her mother has shacked up with the local priest. Things quickly take a turn for the brighter, however, when she meets the kind and naïve Joshua, a carpenter who has come to fix the hole in the roof. She ponders about asking him out for a date, not realising that she has the hots for Jesus himself.

Because elsewhere, Satan is about and is recruiting his horsemen for next week’s Armageddon. The events of the Book of Revelation turn out to have been pretty accurate and Jesus has only returned to fight Satan and his armies. There are just a few short days now for Joshua to convince Marie who he is, then Marie to convince her sister Kata of his true nature. Marie has fallen for some bad men in her time, and now she’s fallen for the best, but can he be swayed from his task of saving the world from Satan and creating the new Kingdom of Heaven?

The book was originally released in German and I’m pleased it’s made it across here in translation, although I think I’d like a word with whoever was responsible for proofreading and the translation. Although generally good, there are a few spots here and there where the wrong word is used, a word is omitted entirely, an errant space has turned up, or the punctuation is sloppy. These are petty complaints and don’t detract from the novel’s content, but it still irritates me to see them.

Otherwise, the book is frothy, funny and has a lot of heart. Jesus (or Joshua) is portrayed kindly, as more human than superhuman, and even God comes across better in this appearance than he does in others. Marie is not actually wholly sympathetic, and is shown to be aggressive, rude and stubborn, although is also capable of good, freely admitting that she finds it difficult to be nice to everyone, and that to live life the way God intends is not an easy thing to do.

Of the secondary characters, my favourite is Kata, Marie’s sister, who has recovered a serious illness, although lost her faith in God along the way. She is a cartoonist and her cartoons pepper the book, cute little drawings that detail the adventures of two sisters. Marie often reads them to find things that Kata won’t say out loud.

It’s a sweet little novel, with some really interesting concepts (I love the stuff with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) and some genuinely funny jokes. It’s also, oddly, never overtly heavy-handed regarding the religious aspects. It acknowledges that God is both kind and dangerous, and that lives are complicated. We all have secrets and anyone would find it difficult to be a good Christian in these modern times. It’s why I have respect for those who do live by a moral code, providing it isn’t one harmful to or disrespectful of other people.

You don’t expect a book with the word “apocalypse” in the title to be light, but it is.