Cover image for A god in ruins : a novel
A god in ruins : a novel
Uris, Leon, 1924-2003.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
483 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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Master storyteller and international bestselling author of Redemption, Trinity, and Exodus, Leon Uris once again brilliantly interweaves historical fact with gripping fiction in this powerful novel of politics, family, intrigue, love, and the passions that rule human lives.

Spanning the decades from World War II to the 2008 presidential campaign, A God in Ruins is the unforgettable story of Quinn Patrick O'Connell, an honest, principled, and courageous man on the brink of becoming the second Irish Catholic President of the United States. In an era morally unmoored, rife with armed separatists and fundamentalist zealotry, Quinn, the last great liberal of the Rocky Mountains, emerges as America's hope to reclaim its great past and its promises of the future. But Quinn is a man with an explosive secret that can shatter his political ambitions and threaten his life--a secret buried for over a half century that even he does not know....

Returning home at the end of World War II a decorated and wounded hero, Daniel Timothy O'Connell had moved his young wife, Siobhan, from the crowded streets of Brooklyn to the golden mountains of Colorado. Building a successful life as cattle ranchers, Daniel and Siobhan had everything they wanted--except a child. Desperate, they turned to the Church and adopted a beautiful three-year-old of mysterious parentage, a charming little boy they named Quinn Patrick.

In riveting prose, Leon Uris unfolds Quinn's life as he matures from a restless youth into a brave Marine undertaking a deadly undercover mission, and finally, into an earnest, intelligent, and thoughtful leader willing take on the most vicious and malevolently destructive forces threatening the country. Here, too, are the two beautiful women who have always loved him--Greer, the lover driven by ambition and passion, and Rita, the sensuous, adoring daughter of his friend and mentor, painter and philosopher Reynaldo Maldonado.

Through the years Quinn has made some powerful enemies who are determined to destroy him, including presidential incumbent Thornton Tomtree. A conservative computer mogul who built an electronic empire out of his father's Rhode Island junkyard, Tomtree is a right-wing pragmatist who will court the most dangerous and deadly elements of society and risk America s safety to achieve his own ambitions.

From America's victorious past to its shadowed future, from the grandeur of Colorado's mountains to the enclaves of private militias hidden deep in the canyons of the Southwest's Four Corners, A God in Ruins races to a powerful, unforgettable conclusion. A sweeping novel of a man, a life, and a nation, it vividly brings to life memorable characters that will indelibly touch the heart and mind and illuminates the major crisis facing America at the dawn of a new millennium.

Author Notes

Writer Leon Uris was born in Baltimore on August 3, 1924. He dropped out of school to join the Marines during World War II, but later returned to attend Baltimore City College.

His first novel, Battle Cry (1953), was based on his time as a marine. He followed it with a series of New York Times bestsellers, including The Angry Hills, Exodus, Topaz, and Trinity. QB VII was adapted into a TV mini-series starring Ben Gazzara and Anthony Hopkins. Uris has also written non-fiction (including Ireland: A Terrible Beauty and Jerusalem: Song of Songs) and screenplays (Battle Cry and Gunfight at the O. K. Corral). He has won the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award from the Irish-American Society and the Scopus Award from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Is America ready for a Jewish president? The question arises when a candidate in the 2008 election, the adoptee of an Irish Catholic couple, learns that his biological parents were Jewish. Whatever Quinn O'Connell decides to do hangs fire while flashbacks narrate his life. When his father returns from the Battle of Saipan, he and his wife buy a Colorado ranch, Troublesome Mesa, which plays out its cutesy name. Reconciling themselves to their inability to conceive, the O'Connells enlist wife Siobhan's connections to the Catholic clergy and thus arrives baby Quinn. Now what, Uris might have asked himself. Rummaging in the prop-shop, he pulls out a father-son conflict, a couple of girlfriends for Quinn, then a hitch in the marines. The latter device spawns one of several aimless episodes in the novel: a marine antiterrorist raid on an Iranian target. Unconnected to any genuine plot, the raid fades to black as Quinn returns to Colorado, inherits Troublesome Mesa, confronts a friend who had cuckolded him, and starts a political career. Meanwhile back, not at the ranch, but in Rhode Island, Thornton Tomtree, son of a junk dealer, has parlayed his electronics business into the presidency, an ascent whose details flit in between O'Connell's memories of his life. Whatever interest is leveraged by the possibility of the cynical Tomtree playing the Jewish-origin card to win reelection, quite a few of Uris' bankably big readership will be puzzled as this novel coasts through disconnected story lines (including a clunky anti-NRA satire) in search of a theme. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Veteran writer Uris (Exodus; Redemption) begins his 12th novel with a compelling premise: Quinn O'Connell is certain to become America's second Roman Catholic president, except that he discovers, a week before the 2008 election, that he was actually born Jewish. Adopted 60 years ago by a Catholic couple, and newly informed by his long-lost Jewish half-brother of his heritage, O'Connell now asks a difficult question: Is America ready to elect a Jewish president? This initial introduction of the issue of anti-Semitism seems promising. Uris obviously is aiming to put the religion of a world leader in perspective: what does it matter if he's at heart a good and honest man? But then he virtually ignores the theme for the next 300 pages. Even when the national reaction to O'Connell's identity results in epidemic violence against Jewish people across the country, an event compared to Kristallnacht, the national issue that gets the most play in O'Connell's presidential race is gun control. His opponent in the election is Republican incumbent Thornton Tomtree, whose administration is struggling to repair his reputation in the wake of violent national tragedies like the Four Corners Massacre, in which 400 Eagle Scouts and their troop leaders are killed in a catastrophic explosion set off by a drugged-out militia group. O'Connell goes up against the gun lobby and calls for repeal of the Second Amendment as part of his presidential campaign. This issue dominates the bulk of the novel, making the opening and closing sections feel like a cut-and-paste job on a totally different story. Years are dismissed in sentences and events are outlined instead of described. Gun lobbies, neo-Nazi militias and tensions between black and Jewish communities eventually get worked into the plot, as does O'Connell's family history, but Uris's apocalyptic tale is too stylistically scattered to generate much suspense. In fact, readers may think they are reading a miniseries teleplay that hasn't been fully fleshed out. Author tour; 15-city TV satellite tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It's 2008, and the Democratic candidate for the presidency is Jewish‘but, as an orphan who was raised Catholic, he doesn't even know it. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



A God in Ruins Chapter One Troublesome Mesa, Colorado Autumn, 2008 A Catholic orphan of sixty years is not apt to forget the day he first learned that he was born Jewish. It would not have been that bombastic an event, except that I am running for the presidency of the United States. The 2008 election is less than a week away. Earlier in the day, my in-close staff looked at one another around the conference table. We digested the numbers. Not only were we going to win, there was no way we were going to lose. Thank God, none of the staff prematurely uttered the words "Mr. President." This morning was ten thousand years ago. I'm Quinn Patrick O'Connell, governor of Colorado and the Democratic candidate for president. The voters know I was adopted through the Catholic bureaucracy by the ranchers Dan and Siobhan O'Connell. My dad and I were Irish enough, at each other's throats. Thanks to my mom, we all had peace and a large measure of love before he was set down in his grave. All things being equal, it appeared that I would be the second Roman Catholic president in American history. Unknown to me until earlier this day, I would be the first Jewish president as well. Nothing compares to the constant melancholy thirst of the orphan to find his birth parents. It is the apparatus that forms us and rules us. Aye, there was always someone out there, a faceless king and queen in a chilled haze, taunting. Ben Horowitz, my half brother, had been searching for me, haunted, for over a half century. Today he found me. Tomorrow at one o'clock Rocky Mountain time I must share my fate with the American people. You haven't heard of Rocky time? Some of the networks haven't, either. Lot of space but small market. The second half of the last century held the years that the Jews became one of the prime forces in American life. Politically, there had been a mess of Jewish congressmen, senators, mayors, and governors of enormous popularity and power. None had won the big enchilada. I suppose the buck stops here. Had I been elected governor as Alexander Horowitz, I'd have been just as good for my state. However, the discovery of my birth parents a week before the presidential election could well set off a series of tragic events from the darkness where those who will hate me lay in wait. How do I bring this to you, folks? In the last few hours I have written, "my fellow Americans" twenty-six times, "a funny thing happened to me on the way to Washington" twenty-one times, and "the American people have the right to know" three dozen times. My wastebasket overfloweth. Don't cry, little Susie, there will be a Christmas tree on the White House lawn. No, the White House kitchen will not be kosher. My love of Carnegie tongue and pastrami is not of a religious nature. By presidential decree, the wearing of a yarmulke is optional. Israel will not become our fifty-first state. To tell the truth, my countrymen, I simply do not know what this means in my future. O'Connell was a hell of a good governor, but we are in uncharted waters. I'm getting a little fuzzy. I can see into the bedroom, where Rita is sprawled in the deep part of a power nap. Rita and our bedroom and her attire are all blended with Colorado hush tones, so soft and light in texture. At the ranch Rita liked to wear those full and colorful skirts like a Mexican woman at fiesta. As she lays there a bit rumpled, I can see up her thighs. I'd give my horse and saddle to be able to crawl alongside her. But then, I'd never finish my Washington's farewell to the troops speech. On the other hand, Rita and I have made the wildest gung-ho love when we were under the deepest stress. Write your speech, son, you've got to "face the nation" tomorrow, Rocky Mountain time. Straight narrative, no intertwining B.S. or politicizing. Explain the O'Connell ne Horowitz phenomenon. Truth, baby, truth. At least truth will not come back to haunt you. Strange, I should be thinking of Greer at this moment. Rita is the most sensual soul mate one could pray for. We have loved one another without compromise for nearly thirty years. Yet, is it possible that Greer is really the love of my life? I'd have never come this far in the campaign without Greer Little's genius. I would have been tossed into the boneyard of candidates never heard from again. She organized, she raised money, she knew the political operatives, and she masterminded my "miracle" campaign. I was struck by the realization that Greer would leave soon, and I felt the same kind of agony as when we broke up years before. I had needed to see Greer on some business, and knocked and entered her room. She had been on the bed with Rita, passed-out drunk. Rita had held her and soothed her as though she were a little girl, and Rita had put her finger to her lips to tell me to be quiet. Well, there was life without Greer, but there could be no life without Rita. Yet it still hurts. I watch the hours flow in the passageway behind me like the tick of a suppressed bomb about to be released. I am through with a draft. I write another. As the hours to dawn tick off, it all seems to come down to the same basic questions. Am I telling the truth? Do the American people have the civility and the decency to take the truth and rise with it? A God in Ruins . Copyright © by Leon Uris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from A God in Ruins by Leon Uris All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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