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Book review: 'Love Letters of the Angels of Death' not a comforting or comfortable read

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 2:58 a.m. MDT

"Love Letters of the Angel of Death" is by Jennifer Quist and is a 2013 Whitney Awards finalist. The awards recognize novels by Mormon authors. (jenniferquist.com)

"LOVE LETTERS OF THE ANGELS OF DEATH," by Jennifer Quist, Linda Leith Publishing, $16.95, 222 pages (f)

In "Love Letters of the Angels of Death," Jennifer Quist tries her hand at an unusual writing style — sort of a first person, multiple voices style that is at best, confusing and at worst, quite frustrating.

This books is about death and all of its earmarks, how it looks, how it smells and how it makes a person feel through the process of discovery to saying goodbye to dealing with the aftermath. While most of it is happening around the main character and his wife, that can be tough to figure out.

It's difficult to recognize even the gender of the person talking and then to try and figure out what relationship the person telling the story (at the moment) has to the person who has died.

"Love Letters of the Angel of Death" is by Jennifer Quist and is a 2013 Whitney Awards finalist. The awards recognize novels by Mormon authors. (jenniferquist.com)

It gets easier once one gives up on continuity and treats each chapter as a new small story and analysis of death.

In every case there is a sense of loss, anger and distance from the actual pain. It's like approaching the situation with a 10-foot pole in hand.

There's not much about eternal life or hope or even faith in God. Instead, there are little treatises on regrets and missed opportunities as those who knew the dead people are drawn into funeral or final arrangements, paying off creditors, etc.

There are a number of voyages into the lives of various relatives who turn up at the end as well. The stories are fine, but seemingly meaningless overall.

There's a tinge of bitterness on almost every turn and a lot of raw edges. This novel is not for those looking for a pleasant read.

It is different and descriptive and yet somehow doesn't miss a single death or family moment cliché. While the descriptions can be gritty, there isn't any sex or described violence.

The book is a 2013 Whitney Award finalist in the general category and the awards recognize the novels of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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