History: Published in 1965.
Plot: Founded originally to help Rosewater descendants avoid paying taxes on the family estate by Eliot's father, a senator in Rosewater County, Indiana, the Rosewater Foundation is operated by a large legal firm in New York and provides an annual pension of $3 million to Eliot. Eliot had been seen as restless early on trying all the typical things that philanthropists do to help the poor, but he eventually sets out across America, going from small town to small town before landing in the city of Rosewater, Indiana and setting up shop. He calls Rosewater home after becoming a volunteer firefighter in numerous cities across the U.S. This fact, along with his drunkenness, his generous relationship with the poor in Rosewater, and his odd relationship with his French wife make him appear a bit crazy. A conniving lawyer by the name of Mushari has set out to prove him insane so he can collect a portion of the Rosewater fortune for himself during the transfer of it to the unwitting distant cousins in Rhode Island.
The novel is told mostly through a collection of short stories dealing with Eliot's interactions with the citizens of Rosewater County, usually with the last sentence serving as a punch line. The antagonist's tale - Mushari's - is told in a similar short essay fashion. These stories usually reveal different hypocrisies of mankind in a very dark and humorous fashion.
Review: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is a quick and entertaining read that cleverly pokes fun at capitalism and greed while being fun all the way through. Eliot Rosewater is a fat slob. His family has recently inherited a large sum of money ($87,472,033.61 to be exact). What makes this book so funny is that Eliot Rosewater is sort of a moron as well as a mediocrity. That he ends up with 57 illegitimate children at the end is beside the point, but the character goes to such extremes to make up for the guilt he feels from having accidentally killed three innocent fire fighters during WWII that his “goodness” borders on insane.
Opening Line: “A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as the sum of honey might be properly a leading character in a tale about bees.”
Closing Line: “And tell them,” He began again, “To be fruitful and multiply.”
Quotes: "Pretend to be good always,
and even God will be fooled."
Rating: Good but not his best.