NOTE: this is an entry in the AMV Guide to Mormon Literature series. Click here for more details on the series.
Angel of the Danube: Barry Monroe’s Missionary Journal is a novel by Alan Rex Mitchell published in 2000 by Bonneville Books. Mitchell re-released it in 2010 under his Greenjacket Books trade name. As the subtitle suggests, the novel is written as a series of journal entries, but in a unique twist the entries are written after Barry returns from his mission. As he relates his often comic mission (mis)adventures, Barry also reflects on what they mean as well as what he is going to do with his post-mission life. The novel is notable not only for its narrative structure, but also for its unique voice which blends California surfer dude, LDS mission lingo and Austrian German as well as and mixing the comic and dramatic modes of fiction.
Missionary Fiction; Romance; Comedy; Fictional Memoir
- Eternal Marriage
- Barry Monroe, a So-Cal dude who is called to the Austria Vienna mission
- Anna Magdalena, an Austrian Frau who investigates the Church and is fond of relating Austrian folk tales
- Unts, Barry’s mission companion and compatriot
- Austria, especially Vienna
- So-Cal, mainly the LA area
- The Mojave Desert
- It won the Marilyn Brown Novel Award in 2000.
- 2. Richard Cracroft compared it to Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. I’ve read both. It’s better.
- Each chapter heading features an illustration by Charissa Yang Sullivan.
- It averages 1.7 uses of the word Dude per page (just kidding — I don’t have an electronic version of the manuscript, but if I did, I would tell you the true number).
- How much you like this book will depend quite a bit on how you react to the ending.
I welcome feedback on this entry. Anyone who provides it will be included in a list of co-conspirators which will be published in the final version of the guide. In particular, I’m interested in hearing if a) the format seems useful and/or interesting; b) whether or not you think I chose the right items to include the Themes and Main Characters sections; and c) if there is anything else that should be added to the To Know section.
What do the following Mormon market novels have in common: Angel of the Danube, Brother Brigham, Hunting Gideon, Kindred Spirits, On Second Thought and Salvador*?
- I have read all of them and like all of them.
- They each have something wrong with their endings — generally minor things, but they each have a moment (or moments) that made me go “wait a minute.” That jerked me out of the reading flow.
This is not to say they are “bad” novels or that they totally fall apart in the end or that I know how they should be fixed.
And I want to point out that ending a novel perfectly is one of the most difficult feats in literature. Short story endings are easy (relatively speaking). Novel endings have a lot to do and they have to finish up while tying up at least some of the narrative threads. They have to maintain intensity but also allow a little bit of catharsis and slackening of tension. A bit of resolution is nice. If you end too abruptly, the reader often feels cheated. On the other hand, if you tie up all of the loose ends, the ending is often too pat. It’s a hard thing to do and even some novels that are considered part of the canon don’t end all that gracefully. For example, I found the endings of Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King and The Adventures of Augie March to be weak. Heck, Kafka couldn’t even end any of his novels. So I don’t raise this because I want to bag on the authors of the novels listed above. All worth reading if their author and subject matter appeal to you.
However, as a believer in craftmanship in fiction, I also think that with the novels above (many of which are first or second efforts) much of the blame lies with the immaturity of the writers. And with that in mind, I’ve asked Stephen Carter to post about how to write better endings over at The Red Brick Store. So head on over there and find out how to fix your endings. Meanwhile, let’s talk here about what novels have endings that work for you and novels that fall down a bit in the end.
* There are probably other Mormon market novels that fit in this same category, but these are the ones that I was able to pull out of my head without going through my entire library.
Updated at 11:30 a.m. to reflect that Stephen’s post was up.
Somehow I missed that Eugene Woodbury had posted an essay titled on his Web site. Or perhaps I knew about it and then forgot about it and then rediscovered it. Whatever the case it’s a fantastic read. So go read it.
It was written as a response to an essay by Stephen Carter and Stephen and Eugene did their duo-presentation at a Sunstone Symposium and the back in 2007.
Eugene (summarizing Stephen) begins with:
We propose that narrative fiction constructed in a Mormon context and for Mormon audiences often strays from conventional storytelling in several ways. Principal among these is the negation or diminution of the “second act.” These stories skip from the first act (the set up) to the third act (the reassuring resolution), leaving out the struggle in between. Continue reading “Holy fools wrestling with god”