Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"The Most Honest Mormon-Themed Novel Since The Backslider"

The new issue of Mormon literary journal Irreantum includes a great review of my novel Kindred Spirits. Following are some excerpts:

Character development is the key strength of Kindred Spirits. Bigelow has created real people, the kind you see every day at the ballpark, at the movies, or on the way to work. Eliza is one of the most appealing characters I have come across in American literature. She is neurotic, impulsive, contradictory, judgmental, regretful, and prone to righteous anger. She is also passionate, liberal, tolerant, understanding, wild, and patient. She would have fit in just perfectly with the early Saints who followed Joseph Smith. Eliza was made for the mid nineteenth century—the progressive era of Mormonism. . . .

The novel switches from Boston to Utah and back, and Bigelow offers up a quirky cast of Utah characters as Eliza’s family. Although Eliza moves to Boston to get away from her preachy dad, Bigelow makes them a lot alike. Both possess folk magic testimonies of the LDS gospel. Eliza’s dad, with the delightful Book of Mormon name Gidgiddoni (“Gid” for short), is prone to impulsive revelations and speculations along the lines of where Kolob might be found in the solar system. Likewise, Eliza embraces the old-style religion. For example, she believes a castaway spirit friend, Hanniah, is haunting her. Her reaction is pure Mormon: a mixture of revulsion and pity for the lost spirit. Eliza and her dad also lean on each other for guidance. Eliza’s reliance on priesthood authority causes her to reconsider a life-altering decision after her father makes known a revelation.

On a lighter note, Eric, who adopts Eliza’s life with relish, becomes converted to a multilevel-marketing company introduced to him by Eliza’s mom, LaVonna, and starts an eastern distributorship of “Zongi,” a “Tongan wonder ingredient” for smoothies, capsules, soap, powder, bread, etc. Kindred Spirits is full of Bigelow’s references, common and esoteric to the Mormon faith, and LDS readers will smile over several quirky examples. . . .

[S]ome scenes are quite musky in their sexual frankness. But the passions described are real. Most of us have lived them. Honesty does not bring a novel down, and Kindred Spirits is the most honest Mormon- themed novel since Levi Peterson’s The Backslider.

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