Has Mette Won the Race?

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I think this accurately captures what we all want:

A novel about active Mormons written by an active Mormon is placed before a national audience where it makes a notably broad impact on discourse.

That first half has precedent: Heaven Knows Why!, SaintsThe Actor and the Housewife, a number of other big-house and indie titles—the second half, I can’t really think of anything that qualifies. But my memory is short and I’ve missed obvious exceptions to sweeping judgments before, so please note my errors below. (At any rate, certainly no such novel has sold in Da Vinci Code numbers.)

But even were there a dozen such novels, we would still feel like the race is yet being run. The latest person to near the finish line is Mette Ivie Anderson with her novel The Bishop’s Wife.

In the posts I’ve posted am posting will post on this novel, I harbor an undercurrent of hope that she will win. Even though I have my complaints and uncertainties regarding minor aspects of the book, I think this is a terrific novel in terms of representing What Am Mormon. Besides, unlike much of the competition, Harrison’s novel is backed up by a serious marketing campaign.

If The Bishop’s Wife is a hit, what sort of conversations might you have with the folks at the rec center?

TheBishopsWife-bittyWell, for sure you’ll have opportunities to send them to Segullah and fMh because suddenly they’ll have a sense that Mormon women are ethereal, by which I mean they manage to be everywhere without taking up any space. And they’ll want to discuss how we manage such a system and they’ll probably have opinions about how it should be  [verb]ed. However, you might not be able to guess the verb they have in mind.

But you know what? The book came out three days ago. This no longer needs to be hypothetical. Read it and talk about it. And ask yourself: how will you feel if she does win this race?

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more posts on The Bishop’s Wife

5 thoughts on “Has Mette Won the Race?”

  1. I just finished it, a very satisfying read. One thing I thought was interesting was her take on spiritual promptings. A couple of times Linda says she sought spiritual confirmation of something, but just felt cold. It is part of her general experience with faith, she is not getting much spiritual sustenance, but a belief in the principles of the gospel is (usually) enough to keep her going. Actually the two times she does seem to receive a spiritual witness of something or someone, it turns out she is very wrong. Towards the end she recognizes her mistake, but rather than totally abandon seeking for spiritual guidance, she just resolves to do better at discerning between what is really inspiration and what is not. (And then she follows what might be a spiritual prompting into a very odd and unexpected choice.)

  2. And when talking about 2014 literary Mormon novels, don’t forget Braden Hepner’s Pale Harvest. It probably is the best pure writing of any of the 2014 novels. It is a very Utah rural book, and that may not appeal to much of the AMV/AML crowd, who may be generations removed from the farm. But please give it a chance.

  3. .

    I’m not that far from the farm, but I need to be given rural books if I’m going to read them.

    Your observations on promptings is insightful. If I hadn’t just leant my copy to my parents, I might have to write one more post…. But that would take us into February which seems excessive.

  4. Got this book for my birthday this last week, and I have to say I have alternately been thrilled and disappointed. First, the good stuff. Harrison is often a very good writer, and there were passages that I relished. I loved that she used a strong woman as narrator, and captured much of what is foreign to others about our religion and culture. But it seemed that for every great passage, she lapsed back into too much expository narration, which bordered on the didactic on occasion. It would seem that she often took too seriously the comment by her publisher: “”It’s like Mormons are a different country. They speak a different language, and you’re the interpreter.” I’ve always felt that you should show, not tell, and trust the readers’ ability to keep up.

    And for every sharply defined character, there are stereotypical characters that on reflection aren’t nearly as nuanced as they forst appeared to me. I thought the opening paragraph was great and had me hooked from the start. Thirty pages after that, I was struggling through too much sidebar narration. Thirty pages further in, I am reading her passage about the tools in the shed, a narrative passage that worked perfectly for me. That cycle seems to repeat it self through the two thirds of the book that I have completed so far. I keep getting my hopes up, only to see them sliding away.

    Still, Harrison tells a good story here, and what she reveals about the tensions between faith and doubt, orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and expectations versus aspirations is what is keeping me reading. There is nothing lacking in her characterization of Linda Wallheim, and for that alone, I will agree that this is an important book.

  5. Linda’s getting those spiritual witnesses wrong was one of my favorite parts of the book. I could certainly identify. Communication from the Divine seems much more complicated to me than we would often wish.

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