Book review: The Book of Stanley by Todd Babiak

(Note: An updated version of this recommendation is available here.)

I chose to read this book because it seemed interesting and quirky. And, as a bonus, it was set in Canada and written by an author from Edmonton. You can see it on Goodreads here.

From Goodreads:

A riotous new novel from the #1 bestselling author of the hit sensation The Garneau Block.

By all accounts, Stanley Moss is an average man. A retired florist, he lives quietly with his wife, Frieda, in a modest bungalow in Edmonton. Stricken with cancer, Stanley has few wishes for the time he has left, except perhaps for his son to call him back. But on the day of an appointment with the palliative care specialist, Stanley experiences a boom and a flash, and then, a remarkable transformation. He discovers he can read minds. He can fulfill people’s dreams. He has the strength of ten men. And, his illness has vanished. What could this mean? Could it be, as his New Age friend Alok believes, that Stanley’s powers are divine? Is Stanley, a confirmed agnostic, the new Messiah?

With Alok and a reluctant Frieda in tow, Stanley heads to Banff (the most sacred place on earth) to look for answers and find a way to use his new powers for good. He encounters there his disciples — a Vancouver TV executive, a pro hockey player from the Prairies and a teenage girl from suburban Montreal — and together they start The Stan, a new religion, and invite the world to join. When the world shows up, along with the international media and an angry long-dead spiritualist, things take an unexpected turn.

Satirical, fantastical, filled with humour and pointed observation about organized religion in the modern world, The Book of Stanley is a provocative comedy about life, love, and devotion in all its guises.

My review:

I liked this book, but I know it won’t be for everyone. To be honest, it almost wasn’t for me.

The Book of Stanley is well written, and there’s a pretty interesting idea behind the plot. But it didn’t pull me in quite as much as I would have liked it to, or as much as I originally expected it to. What kept me reading were the characters. Each one was very well developed, and I found that I was able to connect with almost all of them on some level.

I found that a big aspect of the book was human nature, and how people would react when faced with a person who has divine powers – in this case, Stanley Moss. Each of the main characters reacted in what I thought was a very realistic way; some easily accepted and embraced what was happening – including a couple who went a little over the top with it – and some refused to believe what was happening was real, or else believed it but didn’t think it should change anything.

Overall, I liked most of the characters – Maha and Kal in particular. But I have to admit, I really didn’t like Tanya. At first, I liked her about as much as I liked the other characters; after all, they were all similar in the sense that they were looking for something to make their lives a bit better, and that’s something I can connect with. But, the more I got to know Tanya, the less I liked her, largely because of the personality traits and actions that differentiated her from the others.

But, regardless of my dislike for Tanya, I found that the characters were the reason why I wanted to finish this book. I had connected with them, and I wanted to know what ended up happening to them – not just what ended up happening with the plot.

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