The buzz among local book people this week is over a recent adult mystery novel by Mette Ivie Harrison, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a young adult author.
Her whodunit is called “The Bishop’s Wife.”
I read it last night.
Now I’m waiting for the cries and whispers to roll in.
Will it be viewed like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” — that is, a bit on the edge but within Mormon boundaries of propriety?
Or will it be like Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” too cutting for LDS sensibilities, too stark and grating?
I have no dog in the fight, so I’m happy to play the observer.
My haphazard guess?
Mainstream Mormons will find it too sandpapery while gritty Mormons will sing its praises.
Keep your eye on the comment boards.
Let me say I realize the term “edgy LDS writing” sounds like a contradiction to many people. But every group has its limits. And every group has writers who push them.
An acquaintance of mine, David Kline, has been called an “edgy Amish writer,” for example.
And I’ve even been told some things I write are too “in your face” (we’re talking about me, here).
No doubt there are edgy Communist authors in the world (“Did he just say something nice about the free market?”) as well as edgy Fascist authors (“Don’t tell me he used the word ‘compassion’ in his book!”).
Of course, being an edgy LDS writer is all a matter of one's point of view. I have LDS friends who think Mark Twain pushes things. Most writers, in and out of the faith, seldom guess where their work will fall. Like the porridge of the bears, it might be “too hot,” “too cold” or a nice mix.
As for Harrison’s book, I did sense an agenda in her writing at times, a kind of “shake ’em up” approach. Some of the more provocative aspects of LDS culture seem to have been included just to trigger tongue-clucking, as if we were even more out of sync with the world than the Blue Men of Morocco.
On the other hand, Harrison has an eye like a Nikon camera and an educated ear. I was amazed at her perfect pitch in her choice of words and gestures.
I have no doubt her book will do well nationally. It may even spawn a series of mysteries starring the bold and benevolent bishop’s wife.
But will the book be too tart for conventional LDS tastes?
That’s the question that interests me.
If you don’t hear another word about Harrison’s book, it means the answer was "yes.”