This January will bring us another exciting thriller from the exmo community's own Natalie R. Collins!!!
The same author that wrote the unforgettable Wives and Sisters has a brand-new novel about to hit the shelves: Behind Closed Doors!!! This new novel is a complex mystery that kept me in suspense right up to the end. And it was scary enough that it actually gave me a nightmare!!!
Since murder mysteries aren't my specialty, I was a little worried when I picked up this book that it might just be a reworking of the same material as Natalie's earlier novel. After all, how much can you do with a Mormon-themed murder mystery?
Oh me of little faith!!! ;^)
It should have been obvious to me that LDS culture is rich enough to provide plenty of different situations for setting up a dark and shadowy thriller. And Collins has done a great job here of exploring a different segment of the LDS community and different facets of Mormon doctrine to create a new mystery with an original flavor.
In terms of criticism of Mormonism, Collins' earlier novel (Wives and Sisters, discussed here and here) dealt with the fact that repentant abusers are sometimes shielded by the church hierarchy and hence given the opportunity to strike again. In her new novel (Behind Closed Doors), Collins explores the theme of how LDS victims of date rape are affected by the teaching (especially from S. W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness) that one should fight to the death rather than "lose one's virtue" by being raped.
Now some of you are probably thinking that this must be some sort of anti-Mormon book. Well, that depends on your definition of anti-Mormon. It is certainly not complementary to Mormonism. The protagonists are Mormon apostates and the villains are Mormons. The book portrays domestic violence taking place in LDS homes.
However, this time the author was careful to explicitly state (I think twice) that domestic violence exists in every type of community and isn't something unique to Mormonism. Reading Natalie's blog I can't help but think she spelled it out this time because she was tired of getting angry emails from Mormons accusing her of portraying Mormonism as having some sort of monopoly on evil, abusive people.
Really I think it's more that the author's specialty is suspenseful thrillers -- which require evil villains by definition -- and she sets them in Mormon country because, well, write what you know. And it's not as if nothing bad ever happens in LDS communities...
The point I think has the most potential to offend LDS readers is that the novel opens with the main character in the temple thinking about how she'd been freaked out and traumatized by her first experience with the endowment ceremony. I've never been through the temple myself (except baptisms for the dead of course) so I'm not sure if her description of the ceremony is sufficiently detailed to qualify as "anti-Mormon." But from what I've read of people's temple experiences on exmo blogs (and even on LDS blogs really), I think her character's reaction to the ceremony isn't so far-fetched as to be unrealistic.
Even so, the fact that the book contains a negative perspective on the endowment ceremony is probably enough to make this book offensive to some Mormons. So I'm glad she put it right at the beginning so that if you're going to be offended by the book, you can get your shot of righteous indignation from the very first chapter -- indeed the first line -- and then put the book down. That's much better than having to read the whole book, getting angrier and angrier as you go, until by the end you're so pissed-off that you can't help but send Natalie one of those "Why are you so mean and angry?" emails. If you do that, all that will come of it is that Natalie will find your message amusing, and she'll post it in full to her blog surrounded by wry comments. And really, you don't want to waste your time (and Natalie's) on such a pointless exercise. Actually, if you think you'd be offended by reading about someone being spooked by the temple ceremony, then do yourself a favor and don't even pick up this book at all.
One detail from this book that really jumped out as hilarious was the fact that the author created a male apostate character who has the misfortune of being named Moroni. The reason this detail made me literally laugh out loud was that the exact same ironic detail -- an apostate guy saddled with the name Moroni -- makes an appearance in D. Michael Martindale's new book Brother Brigham!!!
It just goes to show that "Mormon Literature" and "post-Mormon Literature" are really just two faces of the same thing -- two different real, human, valid views of the exact same culture.
It hit me that because Mormon lit and anti-Mormon lit are two totally separate and unrelated categories -- everywhere except on my blog ;-) -- I think it's very likely that I may be the only person in the world at this moment who has read both of these hot new books on the Mormon lit scene: Brother Brigham on the faithful side of the Mo-lit divide (discussed here) and Behind Closed Doors representing the apostate side. Yay me!!! :D
Now you're probably wondering how it came to be that I've already read Behind Closed Doors since it doesn't come out until January 2, 2007.
So, would you like the true version or the improved and embellished version? ;-)
The true version is that with this photo I won in the "farthest away" category of Natalie's book-sighting contest. And when she wrote me to ask what book I would like as my prize, I asked her to send me one of her own novels, so she sent me a coveted "advance reading copy" of this new book.
The improved and embellished version is that I'm one of those influential, trend-setting, book-reviewing bloggers that publishers like to send their advance reading copies to!!!
Yep, I'm really moving up in the blogs-about-books world!!!
Fictionally speaking. ;-)