A Dishwasher’s Diary is a contemporary, fictionalized diary of a failed minister turned dishwasher.
Rev. Joshua Thornbee knew he had no faith in Christianity before he left the seminary, but he nonetheless served as a minister for 30 years. After members of his congregation told him his sermons lacked depth, and that they believed he was causing members to leave the church, Thornbee suffered a nervous breakdown and left the ministry. Unable to find a good job, he becomes a dishwasher at the very restaurant in southern California where he’d previously dined as a member of the local ministerial association. His second wife is his primary source of financial support.
Author Richard E. Kuykendall’s writing is adequate, despite misspellings and other forgivable mechanical errors, but it’s hard to sympathize with his protagonist’s plight. Thornbee is a self-pitying, self-obsessed man. The diary begins on January 1, and by October 16 he’s already decided he’s tired of his marriage; he has someone else in mind. His career goal is to work at Disneyland, but he abandons even that modest goal when he decides to leave his wife and pursue his new love interest in northern California. Thornbee’s April 23rd entry, one of the book’s few authentic moments, underscores his lack of self-worth: “The descent into nothingness. I once was somebody-a minister. Now I am nothing…”
In addition to such drawbacks, his vitriol toward Christianity is often vulgar and will be off-putting to readers of faith. He calls Communion, for example, “a crock of shit”, reserving his reverence for Wiccans, those who believe in UFO’s and others who engage in pagan practices.
Great works have been written about failure and redemption, but this isn’t one of them because the diarist finds no fault within himself. The reader simply observes the day-by-day unraveling of a deeply troubled man. There’s no one to root for here. As a result, the story offers neither revelation nor inspiration.
Also available in hardcover.