Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Book Review: Cage of Stars vs. Mary & Martha & Me

Well, Mary and Martha wins hands down in terms of excellence in writing. But I'm not finished with it yet. This is the type of book I read slowly and meditate on and try to fix in my psyche. I'm not a Mary type or a Martha type, I'm a other type, the type that goes off and reads a book, I guess.

The book is well done, however, I think I read a good review on it from Wall Street Journal or something. What I remember about the review is that it mentioned, in passing, that the author was a Mormon. Well done, Camille Fronk Olsen. Not done yet, but still, well done.

Cage of Stars is yet another book from Jacqelyn Mitchard, who wrote The Deep End of the Ocean. I've read all her books--I call her a female John Grisham. She's an okay writer who comes up with interesting plots and mostly makes them work.

What's noteable about this book is that the main character is a devout Mormon girl. Ms. Mitchard thanked her Mormon friend for helping her with the book in her acknowledgements. She should have tempered her gratitude. I'm thinking her friend was one of those Mormons who doesn't know what she believes. The book is full of mistakes about our faith; for instance, she tells of a new father who "took me and the baby to the temple in Cedar City to seal Rafe to our family, for time and eternity. As a father and a priest, he had done the same for all of us."

I've criticized a lot of LDS fiction writers for somehow missing the boat in interpreting Mormonism, but now I'm thinking nobody can do it. Mitchard makes the same mistakes devout Mormon writers do when she addresses our faith, she makes it too clean, too wholesome, not real. Her book is interesting and works in some ways, but not when it tries to describe life as a Mormon.

I am completely intrigued with how others perceive us, so I always pick up these kinds of books. So far, I haven't found anybody who knows what they're talking about. I think Mormons are wonderful when we write non-fiction and describe our faith and actual events, but the fiction makes us look laundered, bland, without personality. This author tried to avoid that, but failed.

For all my criticism of LDS fiction, they do better than this woman with their efforts. Someday, I hope somebody will hit the mark. I wouldn't recommend buying this book, it was okay, but not anywhere near great writing or anything realistically about Mormonism.


marta said...

Hey, anne. When are you going to write that realistic book about Mormons?

Amira said...

I just finished Mary, Martha, and Me today and I very much liked it. I'll have a review up in a day or so.

Allison said...

Our ward book club read that last month. I missed the meeting and haven't read it yet. I'm looking forward to it.

If it's anything like the Mary/Martha story in the Bible, I don't think I'm much like either woman. Maybe if there was another sister, Molly, who fell asleep before Christ showed up for dinner...

annegb said...

Me, too, Allison. Although, I'd rather be Mary, sitting around, than Martha, cleaning and cooking.

Marta, I didn't notice your comment!

I have lots of ideas, why don't you write them?