Not so many pages into my reading of Mette Ivie Harrison’s new sequel to The Bishop’s Wife, His Right Hand, I decided I was going to write two reviews of this novel: His Right Hand — The Positive Review and His Right Hand — The Negative Review. I wasn’t sure which I would publish first vs which I would let sit on top, but it seemed like a good method to praise what I like and discuss directly what I don’t.
But I can’t write those reviews. By the time I reached the end of the novel, I’d realized that the good and the bad of the Linda Wallheim mysteries are too interwoven to cleanly separate. My concern, however, is that by interweaving them I will be giving the negative more weight. We’ll see how it goes. Ready? Continue reading “His Right Hand (the conflicted review)”
Earlier this week Slate published an article which declared that subtlety sucks and it’s time for more heavy-handed art. I’m not going to address the nuances of this argument (besides, others are already kicking back), but I have been thinking about this, largely for work-in-progress reasons (which will be #2 in the following list). Continue reading “On subtlety, briefly”
Along with the comp ARC Soho sent me was included a slim,Â half-signature readers guide. Some of this info was promotional, some may be included in the published version. I don’t know. Anyway, it was interesting, but I won’t be talking aboutÂ everything that was included—I’ve already talked some about marketing anglesÂ and you can get sample text and about-the-author stuff anywhere (though itsÂ interview with Mette is worth your time).
The only thing I want to discuss is READING GROUP GUIDE QUESTIONS because they, more than anything else, seem toÂ reveal the nonLDS perspective on the LDS aspects ofÂ The Bishop’s Wife. For instance the first question seems a bit mystified by the concept (and appeal) of eternal marriage which we tend to think of as one of our top selling points.
Other questions I would simply love to hear the answers to as book groups across the country give this novel a shot. For instance:
“What do you think about the social and religious standards Linda holds herself to? Or the standards her community holds? Do any of them seem absurdly high to you? Do any of them seem to be not high enough?”
“Do [gender roles] seem more diverse, or less, or about the same as in mainstream American culture?”
“Is it possible to balance a protective nature with a welcoming, generous one?”
InÂ terms of Linda’s “25 years being a full-time mom” and her sense that going “‘back to school or [finding] a job . . . would be saying that being a mother wasn’t enough’,” “Do we give the job of motherhood the dignity it deserves?”
I know how factions of Mormons might answer these questions, or how “average” Americans would answer some of them, but how would thoseÂ same Americans answer these questions filtered through their time with LInda Wallheim? That’s what I really want to know.
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I think this accurately captures what we all want:
AÂ novel about active Mormons written by an active Mormon is placed before a national audience where it makes a notably broadÂ impact on discourse.
That first half has precedent:Â Heaven Knows Why!, Saints,Â The 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 sweepingÂ 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? Continue reading “Has Mette Won the Race?”
A few weeks ago I wrote about the openingÂ pages of Mette Ivie Harrison’sÂ The Bishop’s Wife and lamented their overly explicative nature. Now, I made those statements form my long-standing positionÂ that we don’t have to explain that muchÂ for a nonLDS audience to understandÂ our stories, but Mette wasn’t trying to prove my hypothesis and I can hardly blame her for it. But, happily, the universe has provided another new, nationally releasedÂ mystery/thriller this December 2014 by an LDS writer about LDS characters, and now I can compare them.
Wirkus’s novel, like Harrison’s involves everyday Mormons tossed into dangerous circumstances including murder. (Note: I’m writing aboutÂ City of Brick and Shadow slightly before reaching the halfway point.Â Also, like Harrison’s book, this was sent to me gratis by its publisher. Also! Like The Bishop’s Wife, I expect to get more than one post out of this novel. So yes, I will be comparing it toÂ Millstone CityÂ at some point.)
Wirkus’s protagonists are missionaries serving in a Brazil slum, a location certainly more prone to ugliness than Draper, Utah, but still: it’s not like they put out a PI shingle looking for long-legged dames with murderous lovers to come looking for them.
How theyÂ do get into trouble is worth talking about, but all I’m interested in today is how Wirkus’s worldbuilding compares to Harrison’s and, ultimately, why it is, in one humble thopinion, better executed. Continue reading “Reengaging with Harrison’s first forty-to-sixty
by comparison to Wirkus’s first forty-to-sixty”
I will be walking down a sidewalk thinking of other things when I remember when Elna Baker said:
I try not to [read what Mormons are saying about me]. . . .Â Never before in history has there been a time whereÂ things increase, where we get more and more aware, where what you create is open to criticism that you have access to. . . . .Â for the most part Iâ€™ve noticed that the reactions are positive, but then as you scroll down and stumble upon reactions that are really strongly negative and . . .Â you canâ€™t stop it.
And now I want you to compare this to what Mettie Ivie Anderson recently said:
. . . I have rough drafts of several other books in the series, and have planned in my head an arc for Lindaâ€™s development as a character up to a certain point. I wanted to get that set in place before the first book came out because I donâ€™t want media attention, and in particular the comments of other Mormons around me, to influence the story I have in mind for her.
I find the similarities and differences here quite striking. Your thoughts?
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