Meet Margaret Connelly, 58, of Jupiter, Fla. Originally a resident of Teaneck, N.J., Mrs. Connelly relocated to our East Coast in 1997 after her husband, a former roofing contractor named Nicholas, died of a heart attack. Like so many other retirees, widows and retired widows, cold and loneliness inspired her to move south, and into a discreet assisted-living community.
Like, so what, right? In Lunch Date's foreword, Mrs. Connelly assures us that nothing remotely interesting has ever happened to her. Nothing, that is, until New Year's Day 2000, when Jesus Christ appeared at the dinette in her breakfast nook and suggested that the two of them have lunch together. She haltingly agreed and thus began a daily noontime routine that lasted exactly one year. According to Mrs. Connelly, the Savior materialized from the air in a corona of blue-white light every day of 2000 at noon (He was very punctual, she writes), took a one-hour luncheon with her, and then excused Himself and went to the condo's one bathroom, wherefrom he returned to Heaven.
Lunch Date is a first person day-by-day account of Mrs. Connelly's alleged encounters with the Son of God. Some peripheral action is covered, such as her trip to a psychiatrist after the third lunch, but for the most part, the book deals almost exclusively with their hours together, and the conversations that ensued. A long-lapsed Catholic, Mrs. Connelly had endless questions of a spiritual nature for Christ, but He reportedly dodged the subject repeatedly (Look, I can't get into it, OK? You're a good person. Let's just leave it at that.) in favor of small talk about politics and culture (I really like Cameron, but Titanic? Come on). Once over her initial bewilderment, Connelly recorded their dialogue thoroughly, and much of it is, intentionally or not, hilarious (Your tuna's divine, Maggie, but you can't make chicken cacciatore to save your soul). The book offers little else, however. Why her? How was her life changed? What was He wearing? None of the burning existential questions get asked, much less answered.
Sonshine Presses, a tiny, somewhat hip subsidiary of the massive Christian retail conglomerate Theologistics Inc., is marketing Lunch Date as nonfiction. The publisher also reports that the book sold out two 1,000-unit vanity pressings before they bought it. Connelly's prose is neat and detailed, if not exactly inspired; upon reading it, Lunch Date seems the work of neither a nut-job nor an obvious hoaxster. And that may be its most compelling facet — what if it really happened?