Title: The Agitated Heart
Author: Scott Bronson
Publisher: ArcPoint Media, Orem, UT
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 201 (but only about 40,000 words)
Price: $12.99 from Amazon.com
Also available as an ebook
Reviewed by Jonathan Langford. (Electronic review copy received from the publisher.)
This is a story that I’ve been waiting a very long time to read. Fifteen years at least, since I first started hearing about it under its original title “The Whipping Boy.” It’s good, people told me. The best unpublished story in Mormon literature. It’s a mystery why no publisher has ever picked it up.
Thanks to Scott Parkin’s ArcPoint Media and to Scott Bronson’s own persistence, that long wait is now over. And I have to say: the story pretty much lives up to its hype — with some quibbles that I’ll get to later.
(And now I have to stop and say that there will indeed be spoilers. Because I can’t possibly review this story the way I want to do without referencing the ending. Not that the ending is a particular surprise; it’s foreshadowed for essentially the entire story, and if hearing about the ending puts you off, you probably aren’t someone who should read this book. Just saying.)
With the advent of the home literature movement in the end of the 19th century, Mormon culture began to produce novels for the first time. For decades church leaders had taught from the pulpit that church members should avoid reading novels because they weren’t “true,” and one speech at a late 1880s YMMIA event by a Salt Lake City-area bishop (although admittedly an influential one–Orson F. Whitney) wasn’t going to change the perception of many church members. The message that reading some novels was acceptable would need to be explained and repeated.
Here’s a somewhat belated addition to my series based on insights from writing my first novel, No Going Back. For the complete list of columns in this series, .
If art is, in part at least, the imitation of reality, it’s an imitation that’s largely bounded by and grounded in artistic convention. That’s something I’ve long been aware of from a literary/critical perspective, but writing a novel myself — and then seeing the reaction of different readers to the specific choices I made about where and how to be “realistic” — has borne that truth in on me in a particularly vivid fashion.