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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen

What was the first thing to attract me to Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen? The title, of course.

Take a moment to view the book trailer for Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, and get a feel for what’s it’s about.

(I just love these new book trailers, don’t you?) :)

This story, the over-riding premise of drawing the distinction between the LDS (or Mormon) culture and other cultures that still practice polygamy, was very much needed. But, given the subject matter I assume that persuading a publisher to take a chance on Ms. Jensen’s book was a difficult task. I have to commend Janet, and her publisher, for the sheer fact that this book exists. Despite the small stumbles I experienced, I have to say I really was hooked on it.

The beginning of Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys felt a little rough, there are a lot of flashbacks that can add or take away from the story. For me, their frequency tended toward distracting. It also really seemed to me that I was reading two, well if you count the flashbacks, three different stories. They were very, very good stories, but they definitely could have held their own separately. They all felt kind of mashed together to me.

I thought I was done when the main characters finally resolved their relationship issues and was almost a little surprised to see that the text continued. It was fun to see things play out for a while after that first resolution, but I was slightly bored and wondered how many loose ends the author was going to tie up so neatly for us.

Thankfully, that didn’t last long either. Just like the slightly slow beginning of the book, the middle soon turned to more pressing issues; in fact, these issues were much more pressing than the first ones. I was soon caught up in a whirlwind of literary emotions once again. I have decided that getting several books mashed into one means that I don’t have to wait for the next book in the series to find out what happens to the characters I’ve come to love. :)

Janet does a great job of showing the reader that there is good and bad in any family situation and that there are very few assumptions we can make about our fellow human beings. In fact, I’d say the only safe one is child of God; the rest is up to us individually.

One message that stood out for me may not have been one Ms. Jensen intended. As I observed Joshua Martin struggle with the decisions and obstacles in his path it came to mind that there is a good reason for the commandment not to judge.

Decisions that have to do with your beliefs, your family, and their eternal welfare are probably the most difficult any of us will ever have to make. The things you love the most can hold the most uncertainty when you have to put it all on the line. What is right for one is not necessarily right for another, nor do we ever fully realize what has gone into the decisions and paths another may take.

Do not judge. Raising your own family is difficult enough without comparing or condemning those around you for their own tough choices. The things that go on in any family, polygamist or not, are the same: there are families where love, concern, and support abound and there are families full of pain.

If you know of someone who might not fully understand the LDS religion, or how to separate it from everything in the media, this is a good, non-threatening way to help them understand what the differences are and how they affect our lives. This book is definitely making an impact. People are noticing it on an international level. Among the honors Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys can claim are:

First Runner-Up, Best New Writing: The Eric Hoffer Award for Independent books (commercial fiction)

Finalist, USA Best Books 2007, (Religious Fiction)

Bronze Award, Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award (Religious Fiction)

Semi-Finalist, Reader Views Literary Awards 2007 (Fiction-Religion/Spirituality)

Whitney Award Nominee for LDS authors

Well, done Janet. I hope others learn from Ms. Jensen’s example and aren’t afraid to address tough issues in the future. We can not learn from each other, or from past mistakes, if no one is willing to talk about them in a comfortable environment. For many that comfortable environment is a work of fiction. Fiction, yes, but still a very powerful tool in educating and changing lives— starting with your own.

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