Review: Two Mormon-themed NaNoWriMo novels

I realize that as a card-carrying member of the liteary elite it is my solemn (is there any other kind?) duty to sneer at those who particiapate in . After all these people are writing novels, and they’ve never even been accepted in to a creative writing program.

But at the rick of losing another corner from my membership card (it’s okay — there’ll still be one left [it’s a Boy Scout joke. I use it often]), I am proud to bring you demi-reviews of The Lotus Eaters by Anneka Majors and The Scoundrels of Provo, Utah by [name removed at the request of the author ~Wm] — both first-time novelists, I believe.

Both novels explore the joys and travails of young, single LDS students and do so in a postmodern (whatever that term means), kind-of-hip, often humorous way.

WARNING: These reviews aren’t terribly well-informed because I only had time to skim the novels, and skipped huge chunks of them.

The Lotus Eaters

I already knew that Anneke Majors was a talented artist and graphic designer. I had no idea she could write. Yes, her work is a little too-exposition heavy, and the narrator is sometimes a little too self-aware. But Anneke has at least attempted something I’ve wanted to see: a truly postmodern Mormon novel — one that takes the faith seriously while at the same time not shying away from some of the difficult stuff that educated Mormon singles have to deal with. And it’s sprinkled with pop and Mormon culture references.

The narrative follows several young women at a state college in Montana as they try to carve out an identity as women, as scholars or artists, and as Mormons. Again, I just skimmed thing, but a few points of praise:

1. Anneke takes the stance that educated Mormons are doubly conscious — post-post-modern — in the way that they knowingly embrace a culture and religion that is seen by others rather one-dimensionaly.

2. It’s quite current. This can be problematic, but considering how narrow the field of Mormon culture is, I think it’ll stand up. The Singles Ward and Fascinating Womanhood both make appearances. I’m pretty keyed in to Mormon culture, but I think Anneka would kick my butt in

3. Scenes actually take place in church meetings and in college classes. I’m amazed at the works of Mormon literature where much of the action takes place outside of these two important arenas — even when the main characters are active LDS.

4. Anneke has turned some clever phrases. A couple of examples:

“Was it bourgeois to use Crisco?”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that dreamy, romantic girls of the scholarly type are all in want of a husband like Mr. Darcy. Most of these girls know about five young men of similar character and attitude and may even be good friends with them, but would never seriously consider dating them, missing the point of Austen’s masterpiece entirely.”

I can’t judge the work as a whole. But I did read enough to decide that it merits further reading.

The Lotus Eaters is available for sale at Cafepress (and even if you don’t intend to purchase it, at least click through and look at the cover art — as I said, Anneke is a talented graphic designer). Or read it for free at Anneke’s Livejournal.

The Scoundrels of Provo, Utah

I spent even less time with [name removed at the request of the author ~Wm] The Scoundrels of Provo, Utah, but as with Anneke’s novel, I found things to like. The novel is about James, a BYU student who is five months returned from an LDS mission in Russia. Again, the chapters I read were a little exposition heavy (too be expected from the first draft from a first-time novelists), and the exposition was clunky at times. But the author also creates a convincing and interesting milieu and deals with issues that I think have been missing from Mormon literature. Two of the main concerns of the main character are 1) finding a girlfriend or at least dating more actively and 2) the falling away from the church of a less-recently-returned Russian RM that he had looked up to in the mission field.

I’m not sure if I’ll read the entire novel, but let me put it this way: it interests me way more than much of the didactic stuff that is popular in the Mormon market.

The Scoundrels of Provo, Utah [is no longer available online ~Wm].

ALSO: If any AMV readers are interested in doing a more serious, formal review, please feel free to do so. I’d be happy to post it. Or if anyone else wrote a Mormon-themed NaNoWriMo novel, I’d be happy to mention it. E-mail me at motleyvision AT gmail DOT com.

4 thoughts on “Review: Two Mormon-themed NaNoWriMo novels”

  1. Sorry – not related to the thread but I couldn’t find your email online. Someone pointed out the bug with the blogger hack that keeps it from working with Safari. Since Safari is my primary browser, I’d *really* like it if you could apply this to your comments code.

    It’s because of the code “window.location=nanchor;”

    Safari reloads the page on window.location instead of jumping down the page, like the code wants you to do. Simply removing that would fix it. 

    Posted by Clark

  2. .

    I’m thinking of using NaNoWriMo as an excuse to finish my current novel next month. Glad to know you sort of won’t hold that against it.

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