Picks and Pans Review: The Afterlife Diet

updated 07/03/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/03/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Daniel Pinkwater

Remember those '60s ads for Levy's bread featuring assorted gentiles grinning over their deli sandwiches with the motto "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's"? Well, you may not have to be Jewish to enjoy this Diet, but it probably helps. In this slap-happy comedy of bad table manners, Manhattan book editor Milton Cramer is murdered and goes to heaven, which turns out to be a Catskills-like resort for the "circumferentially challenged"—a place where there's brisket to die for, where 187 pounds isn't heavy for a girl and where God himself occasionally drops by to do stand-up ("I just flew in from the coast, and boy, are my arms tired!")

Pinkwater, a National Public Radio commentator and author of whimsical books for children, does make you chortle at moments, and some members of the huge supporting cast are quite endearing (including Dr. Plotkin, the amiable shrink who holds sessions in the deli while stuffing his face with pastrami on rye). But the plot—unfurled in clipped, breathless chapters involving flashbacks that show what a jerk Milton was—is as convoluted as a noodle kugel (casserole, for the uninitiated). And most of the characters are big bodies with no souls; the same goes for Milton, so a reader could not care less when it's revealed who killed him and why. Diet is chockablock, high-cal stuff, but in the end it's mostly empty calories. (Random House, $21)

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