You know that crazy-looking, scraggly guy, hanging out on the side of the road with his "The End is Near" sign? That's Raoul. And he's not crazy. He's God's hand-selected prophet, and he's attempting to pass along to mankind important directives from God. It's clear early on in Simon Rich's, "What in God's Name" that this God is less than enthusiastic about his job. An angel, Eliza, asks God why he would use a man like Raoul, rather than a scientist or a world leader, to convey such critical messages. God just shrugs. He likes Raoul and "if the humans don't want to listen to him, that's their problem."
God didn't create man with any grand designs in mind. He was bored. He created them as personal playthings, but he quickly learned that humans are demanding creatures. He hired angels to tend to the humans, but their needs and wants could never be fully met. The more he gave to humans, the less they appreciated him. Is a blood sacrifice too much to ask? In a moment of frustration, he decides to destroy Earth so he can focus on more rewarding activities.
The angel, Eliza, and her co-worker and fellow miracle-maker, Craig, make a wager with God. If they successfully use their powers to bring two lovelorn humans, Sam and Laura, together, God will call off his attack. Craig and Eliza have their work cut off for them. These humans are plagued with major insecurities and low self-esteem; merely getting them out of their apartments is a challenge.
I hadn't read Simon Rich's earlier work, but I was inspired to read this book after seeing a positive review in Entertainment Weekly. "What in God's Name" is a light, fun read with many laugh out loud moments. Most of the humor comes from the angels' cringing observations of the awkward and socially inept Sam and Laura. Craig and Eliza offer hilarious and biting commentary (like Craig's suggestion to burn down a bar rather than risk Laura witnessing Sam's awful dancing), but they are never cruel. They take their jobs as angels seriously, and they root for Sam and Laura as much as we do. In fact, the potential destruction of the planet became almost a secondary concern to me. The outcome is never in question, but getting there is all the fun.