Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas opens on Holy Thursday evening, the beginning of the long Easter weekend for the American financial and commodity markets. Robbins's choice of date is significant, as he intends to resurrect two of his characters from death, one from a spiritual death and the other from immanent physical death. Gwen Mati meets Larry Diamond in the Bull & Bear bar as she awaits the opening of the Japanese markets which will determine whether she will have destroyed her career and bankrupted her customers. Larry is largely unconcerned by the movement of the stock market and more concerned with developing a relationship with Gwen who initially rebuffs him. During the course of the novel, Larry begins the process of teaching Gwen that her greedy and class-conscious behavior lies directly in the way of her spiritual development.
Larry is suffering from colon cancer and has recently returned to Seattle from Timbuktu hoping to meet Dr. Yamaguchi who has announced a cure for cancer. While waiting to meet Dr. Yamaguchi, Larry attempts to prove to Gwen that her value system is skewed; that extraterrestrial beings from Sirius, the Nonno, have communicated with African tribes telepathically; that frogs, especially those that secrete a psychedelic substance, have the potential to connect humans to an overmind; and that the decrease in the number of amphibians may be somehow related to the dawning of a new age. These bizarre assertions serve to support themes that Robbins has presented in his earlier novels. Robbins believes that the western Christian tradition distorts and damages the individual, that it is largely responsible for making Gwen greedy and self-centered, and that it promotes individual guilt. A non-western value system, argues Robbins, allows the individual greater opportunity for spiritual development as well as happiness.
Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas is also a love story. By the end of the novel, Gwen is ready to end her relationship with her fiance, Belford Dunn, and to rejoin Larry in Timbuktu. For Robbins, love, with both its physical and emotional components, comes first. It is more important than social activism, than career, than political institutions. Lovers lead each other to higher levels of spiritual development and insight. Gwen has been living her life half asleep; her love for Larry will open both her eyes and her mind.
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