Dentist Paul O'Rourke is a neurotic atheist whose life begins to unravel when someone impersonates him online and tries to convince him that he's part of an obscure religious tradition. Paul O'Rourke is a New York City dentist with several obsessions, including the Boston Red Sox and his ex-girlfriend Connie, who works in his office. Paul's life becomes bizarre when he finds that someone has created a website in his name without his permission. The website, along with accompanying social media profiles, contain strange Biblical quotes. When Paul emails the website owner, he gets involved in a mysterious religious organization that may be a hoax, a cult or an authentic ancient tradition. The anonymous stranger tries to convince Paul that he is an "Ulm," a tribe of people dating back to Biblical times. Paul himself is an atheist who frequently debates religious questions with his devout Catholic dental assistant Betsy. He also frequently reminisces about his life with Connie and her religious Jewish family.
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Paul, who spends most of his nights watching baseball games on TV and eating take-out food, begins to suspect that there may be some truth to the religious rantings on the new website. He hires a specialist in antiquities to authenticate or discredit the existence of the Ulms. As Paul reflects on his unhappy relationships and the emptiness of his current life, he is no longer sure what to believe. The strange thing about the Ulms is that their religion advocates doubt in the existence of God, something Paul already experiences. By the conclusion of the book, Paul is no more certain about his place in the universe than he was at the beginning, but he is more content in his state of uncertainty.
Best part of story, including ending:
While the inner conflict that Paul experiences is interesting, I think the story went off in too many different directions. There were detailed descriptions of incidents in Paul's past that ended up not being very relevant to what was happening in the present.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Paul discovers that his identity has been stolen and that someone is impersonating him online. This scene reveals something about the modern world -how easy it is to create an identity and history online, whether it's authentic or not.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked the way Paul clings to his rut of staying home, avoiding people and watching TV every day. He seems attached to his neurotic and unhappy lifestyle. By the end of the book, however, he is more open minded about expanding his horizons.