Dennis Shields’ debut novel, God Went Fishing, is brimming with energy, humor, satire and more. Since the inception and release of the book, there have been those who have enjoyed the humor, while pondering its sometimes-subtle underlying meanings.
In God Went Fishing, Sigmund is portrayed as an almost divine figure, one who exhibits utmost resolve, resilience and perseverance in the face of society’s vice, death, and deceit. Although allusions to the opposite don’t appear until the book’s end, Shields drops hints throughout the book that Sigmund is a Christ-like figure. It’s almost as though the author is leaving it up to the reader. For example, Sigmund is born on Christmas Day. The narrator states, “There, amongst the Cyrillic writings was one ‘sign-out sheet’ labeled “Christma.” The names on the sign-out sheet were mostly in Russian and mostly illegible but there were two that were strange. One of them made his heart sing. It was Heather. Was it his Heather? It looked like her writing. The other was Mary Something.” By inserting “Mary,” Shields offers the suggestion that Sigmund could be a Christ-like figure. Like Christ, Sigmund goes through life often encountering the outcasts of society, responding to them with charity, all the while maintaining his purity.
Although Sigmund is generous and caring, he does not possess the ability to cure. Bernie Gold, Sigmund’s mentor, most fittingly states, “Sigmund, you brought out the best and worst in people, you were only a mirror.” Sigmund the mirror is much like Jesus the mirror, who often caused men and women to see themselves for whom they really were, and always leaving the choice for change up to each individual.
Similarly, Shields’ symbolism in God Went Fishing is meant to prompt readers to enter in to some serious self-reflection, questioning themselves and society as a whole-for it is only through self-examination that members of any culture can honestly see the truth about what they have become, and effect change if necessary. If Sigmund is to be the ideal in this story, then each one of us has some changes to make.
This is genuine satire at its best. Shields’ book is best suited for anyone who loves a multilevel story that evokes deep thought and lofty ideas. It is at once entertaining and philosophical-a must read for those who wouldn’t mind a little self-discovery as they follow Sigmund on his life altering journey.
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