a review by Evie Kendal
Heaven is full of arseholes by C. Sean McGee is a short story about the nature of God and unconditional love. It begins with a dysfunctional family whose psychopathic son has humiliated and angered his parents yet again through some unknown “incident” at school. While they are driving him home the son accuses his parents of blaming him for the death of his younger sister (the true cause of her death is revealed at the very end of the story). After a fight ensues the son causes a car accident that kills the whole family. At this point the narrative follows the father as he progresses through a concentration camp-esque processing centre before being admitted into heaven. Up until this point the story has adhered to the “show don’t tell” mandate for short creative pieces, however, following the introduction of Adolf Hitler, this element is somewhat lost. The gritty description of humanity stripped of dignity and the use of historical figures like Eichmann made Hitler an unnecessary addition. The father then sees that heaven is full of people who tormented him in school and irritated him as an adult. He asks if he is actually in hell, to which Hitler asks him whether he still loves his son even after everything he has done. When the father agrees, Hitler explains that everyone in heaven is considered “an arsehole to someone” but that God’s unconditional love for all his children means they are still welcome to heaven.
This short story is interesting, even though some of the philosophical arguments could have been more subtly engaged. The idea that the Divine exists in everyone and everything is described well, although whether it is fundamentally supporting a Cartesian, Levinasian, pantheist or panentheist viewpoint is unclear (this ambiguity is arguably a strength). The book itself is laid out quite well, with good chapter headings and an effective front cover image. As with other texts by the same author there are a significant number of typographical errors, in addition to inconsistent punctuation and font. This short story is recommended for anyone who likes to think through the philosophical implications of unconditional love and repentance.