redzils (redzils) wrote in stackofbooks,

I have been keeping a running tally of books read so far at my own journal: redzils.  It is a sticky post, so will show up as my most recent entry all year, if you are interested in books 1-42. 

Here is this week's tally:

43. Maybe, Maybe Not by Robert Fulghum (4/2/07, 232 pages).  This is the Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten guy, and I like the reflective tone he takes in sharing personal experiences, then tying them to larger phenomena.  This book was typical of his work, and fine.

44. Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie (4/1/07, 219 pages). This book has the most ridiculous cover of anything I have read so far this year, probably because it is a late-80s era romance.  I like Crusie's more recent work better, but it was light and fun.

45. The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy (4/2/07, 391 pages). This book contains a bunch of stand alone stories about people who live interconnected lives in a small village. That degree of overlap makes things a bit confusing, since each story is told chronologically, and the times overlap from story to story (i.e. one of the first stories begins when the young schoolmistress is 20 years old, and ends several years later.  However, other stories include mention of her at other, much older, ages, and vice versa).  Overall, it was pleasant but unremarkable.

46. Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck (4/3/07, 306 pages).  This was excellent. Martha left Harvard to return to Salt Lake City, Utah and her Mormon family, after having a baby with Down's Syndrome.  That geographical change sparked the return of horrible childhood memories, and started her on a journey of self-discovery that is powerful to read about, especially since she is very articulate.  I learned a lot about Mormonism too, by-the-by, which is interesting to me since my friend Mim is Mormon and I tagged along to Mormon Girl's Camp probably my freshman or sophomore year of high school. I recommend it highly - unless reading about flashbacks of sexual abuse would be triggering.

47.*  Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie (4/8/07, 381 pages). More silly, more fun.  This was a reread from long ago, since I recently read Faking It, which furthers the story of several minor characters, and I wanted to revisit their debut.

48.*  The Goodbye Summer by Patricia Gaffney (4/5/07, 460 pages). In sorting my books recently this ended up on the unread shelf. It took me a good chunk of pages to realize it was a reread, and even then I wasn't sure which guy our heroine was going to end up with, so I finished it.  It was fine, but if you are going to read Gaffney, read The Saving Graces.

49.  Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton (4/8/07, 721 pages).  Geez, I didn't realize exactly how long it was until I just typed the page number in - no wonder I find myself skimming the Vampire Hunter books lately.  It was fine, better than Cerulean Sins, which is my new benchmark for dumb. Overall, fine. She solves a murder, admits her new sexual preferences out loud to herself (about three books after her readers noticed them), and ends up onstage with Nathanial at a strip club.  There is some interesting stuff in there about her friendship with Ronnie, and Jason (legendary for his too-tight leather pants) continues to be the wisest voice. 

New total: 49 books, 15,910 pages.
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I was interested to see your response to Leaving the Saints. I'm... uh... a Mormon agnostic (raised Mormon, still go to church somewhat regularly, but have fluctuating and differing opinions on some of the major doctrines and many of the minor ones), so I definitely noticed when this book came out (Hugh Nibley is a Very Big Deal in Mormon circles), though I've yet to read it.

You might be interested in this review at Sunstone:

(Just so you know: Sunstone is a liberal Mormon journal (that is to say, the people who write articles for it are by and large believing Mormons, but you often find rather Mormon-critical things in its pages). The review sounded pretty balanced to me.)

Also I wonder: what *did* you think about Mormonism after reading it? :)
Thanks for sharing the review - that was really interesting. A little defensive, especially she admits to believing Martha's sexual abuse accusations but wraps that in a dismissal of the whole book, but that is to be expected.

Reading back to my own paragraph on the book, I should have said “I learned a lot about the history of Mormonism,” rather than Mormonism itself.

As for, what do I think of Mormonism? A little quick background: One of my best friends from high school (who I am still in touch with) was - and is – Mormon, so my views are colored by hanging out at Young Women's with Mim (she was the president when we were in HS) and at Girl's Camp. Mim met her husband through a friend from Relief Society, and their marriage was sealed in their local temple, so a lot of my experiences with Mormonism are tinged with her interpretations.

All that said, I think Mormonism is an interesting, relatively recent world religion. It has a lot of the same failings I see in other bureaucraticly determined world-views, and I am not entirely comfortable with the official treatment of half of humanity, the heavy proselytization, or their relationship to the natural world. However, the Mormons I have known are mostly good people doing their best, so there is no point in condemning their church (even if I find the mythology difficult to believe). There is well-chronicled history of sexual abuse in patriarchal cultures with strong conformity norms, so her accusations of sexual abuse are no surprise in that context.

I thought the Beck book was interesting and powerful, but more in a negotiating-adult-relationships-with-family and finding-your-spiritual-home sense, rather than as a lens into Mormon culture. I believe she was abused, since I have a life policy of believing any victim who presents their story to me, but don’t necessarily accept that everything in the book happened just as she wrote it – after all, we are seeing things through her filters, and memory is notoriously tricky.

Interesting side note: her maiden name (i.e. her father’s name) appears nowhere in the book. There is enough information about her family that I am sure in Mormon circles it’s very obvious, but his identity is never specified for us muggles.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I'm always curious as to what people think about Mormonism, having grown up inside it like I have :)

I have, thank goodness, never had any direct or even second-hand experience with sexual abuse, but (although I can't either way talk about Beck, given that I haven't even read her book yet :) ) I agree that it can be a problem in strong patriarchial cultures, and I've certainly had circumstantial and third-hand evidence that it does exist in the Mormon world and can be exacerbated by the strong patriarchical tendencies.

Okay, you've convinced me-- I'll have to give it a try. I did read one of her earlier books, Expecting Adam. It was a while ago but I seem to remember I had mixed feelings about it, though I did think it was written gorgeously.