Book review: Paradise Earth: Day Zero
by Anthony Mathenia
Fiction: You’re going to like this middle-aged Jehovah’s Witness with a dark secret and a dependency on cough syrup. He shares a dream of Armageddon with all faithful J/W’s, anticipating the day God rains fire on the earth and then recreates it into a paradise of eternal happiness. (Yes, the J/W’s interpret Revelation literally where it implies the resurrection will be on this earth.) Then a severe hailstorm rolls in and cataclysmic events begin to trigger. But now that the end finally seems imminent, while the faithful are holed up within their Kingdom Hall like animals in the Ark, he begins to question it all.
This is book one of what will become a trilogy, and it definitely is a page-turner. I can’t wait for the next two volumes.
I felt an immediate kinship with Mathenia and his main character because of the similarities of our religious upbringing. Both of us lay claim to what I describe as “intense” Christianianity. But while my childhood and early adulthood provides mostly wholesome memories, Paradise Earth delves into the stomach-wrenching side of overbearing religion: church correction, disfellowshipping, door-to-door evangelizing, and more. We must pardon the sensationalism, because Mathenia writes from experience, having been himself ritually shunned by family and friends as an apostate for questioning his faith. Of course, the jaded dark side makes for good storytelling, even as it’s downplayed into “normal” Bible-ordained church practice. That’s the gut-wrenching part.
Mathenia’s characters are vibrant and the storyline gripping, and you’ll even learn a little about Jehovah’s Witnesses while you’re at it … without having to read The Watchtower! Definitely recommended, with one caveat: Mathenia’s portrayal of what he considers a “cult” is less than subtle.