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Book review: ‘Mile 21’ evokes a marathon of emotions

By Elizabeth Reid

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"MILE 21," by Sarah Dunster, Bonneville Books, $17.99, 336 pages (f)

Finding herself a widow and once again part of a Brigham Young University-Idaho singles ward is not something Abish Miller had envisioned for herself at the age of 21. While Sarah Dunster’s novel, “Mile 21,” is a romance, it is also a complex novel that poignantly depicts the emotions of dealing with the death of a spouse.

Although a year has passed since Abish’s husband unexpectedly passed away, she is still mentally reeling from its aftereffects. Her mourning manifests itself through her slanted perceptions of her family and friends. In some instances, she lashes out at people and at other times she shuns all associations. Everyone is affected, from her late husband's parents and her parents to people she barely knows. Reading about Abish’s grieving process is deeply moving and, while the book is fiction, it is easy to get caught up in the drama.

Abish’s life has unraveled to such an extent that her landlord, who is also her mother, kicks her out of her apartment and fires her from being the apartment complex manager. Abish is forced outside her comfort zone as she unwillingly joins single life at BYU-Idaho. She struggles to fit in with some of her roommates and finds it emotionally taxing to attend her new singles ward. To top things off, Abish is forced to interact with her disliked boss even more when she realizes he is her new bishop.

Just when Abish is starting to feel comfortable with her job, her ward and her dating prospects, her life takes another drastic turn, and she finds herself at the brink of despair. During her darkest moments, Abish realizes that while loyal friends are nice, her Savior is who can ultimately give her the peace she has struggled so long to find.

“Mile 21” contains very brief violence and one mention of rape. The book contains no swearing and the romance doesn’t go beyond kissing. It does deal with destructive behaviors, but tells how those sufferers can be helped by the Atonement.

Dunster lives in Idaho and has a degree in psychology from Brigham Young University.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. Her email is bizziereid@gmail.com.

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