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Clarion Review

This exuberantly funny book will generate laughs and nods of recognition, even when it’s deliberately being over the top.

P. G. Smith’s highly relevant Thaddeus Lamb, or Taking America Back satirizes a quixotic pastor’s struggle against social progress during a bygone era of massive political changes.

Set in the 1970s, the novel follows a small-town fundamentalist preacher’s futile efforts to turn back the tides. He faces challenges like his church’s bankruptcy, low television ratings, and a feminist daughter who fights for equal rights and doesn’t want to squander time at his alma mater, which she dubs Podunk Bible College. A political strategist, Roger Wright, tries to enlist him in a cynical, calculated crusade to make the country more conservative at a time when many are looking to shake up the status quo.

The novel dramatizes a historic period of shifting attitudes and political upheaval. Though it’s clearly an allegory from beginning to end, its characters still feel like real people, and its scenarios feel organic. The struggles between Thaddeus, his wife, Eleanor, and their daughter, Veronica, are made to symbolize a generational divide; they read realistically, mimicking the eternal squabbling between parents and their children.

Thaddeus Lamb owes a heavy debt to Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote; it could even be described as a modernized take on the Spanish classic. It’s a similarly hefty tome that centers on a deluded protagonist, follows the same basic narrative structure, and is pervaded by the same tone of bemused satire. It even has a windmill illustration on the title page, nearly as many chapters, and book titles like “In Which Two Crusaders Sally Forth to Save the World as They Know It” and “In Which It Is Discovered That People Live in Vastly Different Worlds.”

The book’s comedic timing is dead on and its sensibilities are well honed. It’s an exuberantly funny book that will generate laughs and nods of recognition, even when it’s deliberately being over the top. The satire comes across as sharp, well observed, and accurate, as when a candidate deflects tough questions by immediately demonizing the press and impugning reporters’ motives.

Though wielding humor as its lance, Thaddeus Lamb is a serious book that takes a deep dive into America’s past political divisions, exploring how those conflicts laid the groundwork for today’s hyperpolarized political landscape in which disagreements seem intractable. The novel strives to make history come alive through spoof and caricature but still has an emotional resonance and can be heartbreaking.

Plumbing historical depths with great specificity, Thaddeus Lamb might appeal most to political junkies, but its farce is broad enough for a general audience with a more casual interest in campaign strategies, Machiavellian maneuverings, and political action committees.

The sheer length of the book can be a bit daunting. Even though the prose is generally well crafted, sections drag on and feel repetitious at times. But the epic never feels padded and is carried along by an urgency of purpose and a biting wit.

Unafraid to poke fun at delusions, Thaddeus Lamb reflects on the political battles of the 1970s and the forces that continue to clash in the modern day, offering both insight and humor.

JOSEPH S. PETE (April 19, 2018)

Kirkus Reviews

Debut author Smith presents a novel about the rise of the Christian right in American politics…

…t’s a lengthy adventure that’s dense with political scheming, and it effectively gives readers a sense of how American conservatism gained a foothold in society. Changes in political thinking don’t happen overnight, and the book makes clear just how far a sense of moral outrage can push voters…

A careful, if overlong, look at how religion, culture and politics intersect.

U.S. Review of Books

…Covering almost the entire decade of the 1970s, this work of fiction brings the era of social progressivism to life and pits its titular character against each and every one of its changes. Written in a humorous tone, it calls to mind the conflict of old and new popularized by sitcom fathers of the era like Archie Bunker and is perfect for encapsulating the upheaval of the Ford and Carter years. What sets this book apart…however, is its political plot which runs concurrently with the stories about family life and fundraising….

Entertaining and eye-opening, this comic tale uses fiction to tell a story that is entirely plausible given its setting and era.

-Michael Radon

Pacific Book Review

…Overall, Thaddeus Lamb, Or, Taking America Back is a book which will cause an emotional reaction in those that read it. It has many elements of original thought…

I was pleasantly surprised by the range of analytical curiosity it developed in my mind…

[It] is an entertaining book which will make you reflect about the world we live in today, with this powerfully written story.

-Dan Macintosh

Thaddeus Lamb

Thaddeus Lamb