I Hated Heaven is filmmaker Kenny Kemp's first novel. While reading it I frequently thought it would make a great movie, and it probably will be made into one before too long. Although the subject matter bears a surface similarity to the Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come, this novel presents a very different vision of the afterlife, and tells a very different story.
Tom, the book's protagonist, is a devoted Christian married to April, an essentially agnostic nonbeliever. They have a surprisingly good marriage, however, and when Tom suddenly succumbs to cancer April begs him to promise to come back and tell her if there really is an afterlife.
Tom soon finds out there is an afterlife, but it's nothing like he could have imagined. Tom finds himself not in Heaven, as he had expected, but in Paradise, apparently an immense bureaucracy which people must pass through before moving on. Much of the novel depicts Tom's experiences as he learns what Paradise is really like. Unfortunately, the more he sees, the less he likes it. Tom desperately desires to make a quick return visit to his wife to fulfill his promise to her, and hopefully turn her into a believer, but he's constantly thwarted by obstacles such as impassable committees, serpentine regulations, and request forms which run for hundreds of pages.
I Hated Heaven is a devious little book in that it should be loved by most non-religious people, because of the way it satirizes religious beliefs, and it should be loved by most religious people because of the way it affirms those beliefs. Really, the book is very pro-religion and pro-Christian, but non-religious readers will find it enjoyable as well, as it is, more than anything, very pro-people.
The secret about the book is that the fascinating and bizarre afterlife depicted by Kemp isn't really one that he made up. Essentially, Kemp has taken Latter-day Saint beliefs (both folk beliefs and scripturally-based teachings) and depicted them as glaring reality, adding detail as necessary to flesh things out. Anybody who enjoyed Samuel Taylor's classic and hilarious Heaven Knows Why! will also like I Hated Heaven.
Those few who find Jack Weyland too racy would hate I Hated Heaven and they're smart enough to know they would hate it and they won't read it. But Latter-day Saints who are not bothered by reading Card or Hickman can certainly read I Hated Heaven. In fact, they'll love it more than anybody, which would surprise some non-religious readers. (The book is sold in Deseret Book stores, which may surprise some people, but apparently the Deseret Book buyers got the joke and realizes the intent of Kemp's satire. I Hated Heaven is also sold by Christian book stores, of course, and even some New Age/Alternative places. I Hated Heaven was on the American Library Association's selected Christian fiction list.)
Who should read this book? Anybody who is a romantic at heart, and anybody who loves, hates, or is interested in religion.