Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen & Contest


Gather 'round, girls, and listen to my noise,
Don't you marry the Mormon boys;
If you do your fortune it will be,
Johnnycake and babies is all you'll see.
-- Old Western Folksong

"When Andy McBride met Louisa Martin, he knew he had found the girl for him. There was only one problem: polygamy -- a lifestyle that Louisa could not escape and Andy would not embrace.

"As medical students at the University of Utah, Andy and Louisa fall in love -- but can a mainstream Mormon and a Fundamental polygamist overcome the cultural barriers between them? Both realize that their choices will not only affect their own lives, but will also have an impact on their family, friends, and even their communities. Fearing that the sacrifices required of them would be too great, they go their separate ways.

"Yet for Andy in Kentucky and Louisa in Utah, life does not go as they'd planned. While Andy is serving as a country doctor and trying to bury his pain, Louisa is coming to terms with the fact that all is not as perfect in her tight-knit community as she'd believed. As doctors, each will have to choose between keeping the peace in their communities or doing what they know is right. And someday, both will have to face their past and decide if they can make the sacrifice to be together.

"Set in the red hills of southern Utah, the cosmopolitan center of Salt Lake City, the Smoky Mountains of Kentucky, and the lake-studded country of Finland, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys is the heartfelt and engaging story about the power of love and acceptance in an ever-changing and often surprising world."

When I decided to read this book, I was intrigued by the concept of two people from two cultures with similar backgrounds coming together in a love story. Because polygamy has been in the news lately I wanted to see how the author handled the story. Halfway into the first chapter I was hooked. I expected a nice love story, I didn't expect to fall in love with the characters and the settings.

Jensen has created characters that are strong and likable. They overcome tremendous odds, from health problems, lack of family support, and the biggest one, an enormous difference in religious beliefs, and they do it in a believable manner. I also loved the smoky mountain setting and the quirky characters Andy meets there as he sets up his practice. Jensen also gave a good balance to the treatment of the two religions. Each had characters who were intolerant and close-minded, just as each side had characters who gave unconditional support of their decisions.

In the final analysis, I thought the subject of modern day polygamy was treated with grace. The writing was strong and the story was a compelling read. I can't wait for more from this author. Janet agreed to answer a few questions for me.

How much research were you able to do into the polygamist side of the story?

Janet: I have read quite a bit on the subject, including books by women who have left polygamy, newspaper series in the Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and a most interesting book by Jessie Embrey, who interviewed people who had grown up in polygamy. We have driven through Colorado City, a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border, and that left lasting impressions. I also interviewed a former polygamist.

I was glad I researched the life of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female physician in Utah, because when my neighbor began reading the book, she called and said she was thrilled because her husband, also a physician, is a descendant of Martha Hughes Cannon, and they were present when her statue was unveiled at the Utah State Capitol building a few years ago. My neighbor is descended from the Kingsburys, so when the medical school graduation took place in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah Campus, she was pleased that her side of the family was mentioned. I had no idea of this connection, but was glad that my information was accurate. She bought eleven copies of the book to give to family members.

I also researched the natural herbal remedies Miss Carolina uses with her patients.

The natural remedies were great. I loved the parts that took place in the Smokey Mountains. Do you base any of the characters on real people?

Janet: Miss Carolina is based loosely on my husband’s aunt. She wasn’t a healer and she was raised in the west, but her personality was very strong and commanded instant respect. She also had a wonderful sense of humor. Initially, she was a minor character, but I liked her so much I had to give her more to do. Eliza R. Snow is based on my border collie mix, Lita. The other characters are composites of qualities in people I know, and pure invention.

Andy and Louisa were such compelling characters. Do you see them appearing in future books?

Janet: I am working on the sequel. It begins with the journey of Zina Martin, Louisa’s sister who disappears from home one night rather than marry into polygamy. Andy and Louisa are part of that story, too.

What are you working on next?

Janet: The sequel to Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, tentatively titled Gabriel’s Daughters, and Grace Shall Lead Us Home, a novel that deals with adult illiteracy, the overwhelming effect it has on people’s lives, and the great lengths they will go to in order to hide it.

What is your favorite writing tip?

Janet: This has been drummed into my head by Ken Rand, a writer and editor: Avoid the passive tense, watch for too many adverbs and adjectives, and be on the alert for words or phrases you tend to overuse.

You can purchase "Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys" here.

Janet is providing a book to give away with this review, so post your comments on this post. On Saturday I will take all the comments and randomly select a winner to receive a free copy of this book. Good luck.

2 comments:

Anna Maria Junus said...

This book sounds really good!

Okay, there's my comment and I'm first. Does that count?

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Sorry, I should have clarified. I combined the comments from both blogs and they had to be in by Sunday night. Try again next time. I'll be giving another book away in a week or two.