The Insatiable Moon, by New Zealand author, Michael Ridell, is the story of Arthur, a huge Maori man, ex-psychiatric patient, and second son of God.
Arthur lives in Bob’s boarding house in Ponsonby, a crumbling, overcrowded halfway house, peopled by a rag-tag group of alcoholics, loonies and other injured and vulnerable people, including a paedophile who has paid his dues, and is desperately fighting his nature to avoid repeating his offence, and run by an aggressive, crude, but ultimately kind and caring guy, who does what he does because his father did it, and if he doesn’t look after this bunch, who will?
Because all of these men are part of the Care in the Community initiative that has spread across the western world – the government policy of removing the mentally ill from institutions and basically leaving them to fend for themselves as best they can. Of course, the phrase Care in the Community is an oxymoron – the community doesn’t care, and in fact, being a newly wealthy suburb, the Ponsonby community in particular only care to shove the problem somewhere else.
As Arthur pursues his quest to find the Queen of Heaven, impregnate her, and spread his father’s word, he comes to the attention of Pastor Kevin, a doubt-riddled clergyman who runs a drop in centre, and through him, Karen a bitchy, self-serving TV journalist.
Everyone who has contact with Arthur, throughout the course of this book, is profoundly affected by it; he literally does perform miracles, and in the end, he suffers the same fate as his “older brother” .
But, despite tragic and genuinely moving elements, this is by no means a depressing book. Its characters are warmly drawn, especially the whanau of psychs at Bob’s place, and the writing is full of passion and really funny humour. There isn’t a person featured here you can’t believe in, even the lascivious angels watching over the drama, and Arthur is… right, somehow.
What makes this whole book more amazing (apart from a really, really good sex scene, covering six full pages) is that, skating right on the very edge of outright blasphemy, it was written by a Baptist Minister – and it hasn’t been decried by the Christian community. It’s accessible to believers and non-believers alike, and explores issues of faith, rather than poking fun at the concept.
It’s also a great read, just for entertainment, as the excerpt below illustrates:
In his night watch Arthur is seeing things. He sees the city of Auckland spread out before him like a blanket. Everywhere the roads are jammed as people stream toward the centre. All of them are weary and ragged. They head toward Ponsonby, drawn by the sound of the voice. There, from the balcony of the Post Office, Arthur is calling to them. His voice is the voice of God, speaking in words that none of them know, but all of them understand.
He raises a hand and the Waitakeres burst into song. The other hand and Rangitoto is doing descant. One Tree Hill sulking.
Have no fear. I am with you, and the time has come.
Arthur, a voice is calling from the bed next to his. Go to bloody sleep.
Rights to produce the book as a film have recently been purchased by Fin du Jour. Read it, if you can find it, and if you can’t, be sure to catch the movie when it comes out.