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'Funeral Potatoes' is delicious, delightful story

By Mike Whitmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 14 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"FUNERAL POTATOES," by Joni Hilton, Covenant Communications, $15.99, 194 pages (f)

Sydney has a great life. She is the mother of four children, has a loving husband and serves in the Relief Society presidency in her Mormon ward. But Syd has a problem — she makes great funeral potatoes but doesn’t really like going to funerals.

In her new book, “Funeral Potatoes,” Joni Hilton introduces us to the OllerVanKeefer (rhymes with overachiever) family and their hilarious, touching and inspiring adventures. And, as she has done in the past, the author has mixed humor with pathos to create an interesting group of people who can teach us all a thing or two about life.

Through Sydney, Hilton welcomes us into the inner sanctum of a really quite normal family with quirks and challenges that make them fun to observe. From the older sister who must be the best at everything she does (think the perfect scrapbooker), to Ted, the irritable but lovable “less active” brother, readers are taken on a tour of a solid but not unflawed family who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Trying to tone down the innate family need for perfection, Syd finds that she is also guilty of doing a little pushing. Like when she prays that Ted might have a small (or maybe large) accident that will cause him to consider where his life is heading so he will regain his testimony and come back to LDS Church. It is, she reasons, for his eternal good, so it’s not really interfering.

Mixed in with all the family struggles are crazy, untrained dachshunds, girls camp for the camping-impaired, unexpected trips to the hospital and, of course, a liberal sprinkling of funerals. And though funerals are not most folks' favorite pastime, Hilton does wonderful merit to the event without taking away from the sacredness of the time.

Those who have read Hilton’s previous works will be reminded of her delightful sense of humor and her ability to see past the surface level of family life. The tenderness she uses in helping readers understand the challenges experienced by each member of the family is indicative of her ability to read things as they truly are.

“Funeral Potatoes” will offer readers a wide variety of emotions as they consider their own experiences with funerals and the life of a dynamic family. Hilton has another winner with this latest story.

Mike Whitmer lives in West Valley with his wife and a small garden. His email is grundelwalken@gmail.com or he blogs at mtwhitmer.blogspot.com.

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