Showing posts with label Donna Banta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donna Banta. Show all posts

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review: False Prophet

Satire (noun): the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose or criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Sometimes the truth can be strangest of all.  In her book "False Prophet," author Donna Banta once again draws on her skills as a satirist to expose the weird, sometimes odd, almost always heart-breaking realities of being a Mormon.  In “The Girls From Fourth Ward,” the story was about how far Mormon girls would go to get into BYU.  In “False Prophet,” the story centers around Ryan and the very sweet but over-worked Carrie Zimmerman, who finds herself repeating the refrain “I love being a Mormon,” in order to cope with the exhausting and mind-numbing realities of being the bishop’s wife.           
          “False Prophet,” picks up again with Lieutenant Matt Ryan, who is burnt-out and disillusioned from his last run-in with the Mormons, who had foiled his investigation at every turn, ultimately leaving the murder unsolved.  When he discovers another murdered man clutching a blue and gold embossed Book of Mormon, his reaction is, quite simply, to close his eyes and whisper “Jesus Christ.  Not again.”
 This time, the murder victim, Brother Sid Dooley, was a lonely widower who embraced Mormonism with zeal after the death of his wife and only daughter.  Brother Dooley is the eccentric character that is found in every Mormon congregation (ward), a lonely man who walks around claiming to see angels and talk with God.  When he turns up murdered, having ranted about a false prophet shortly before his death, the only suspect that the police can come up with is Bishop Zimmerman, who had spoken to Dooley shortly before his death and was the one to discover his body. 
The story is a real who-dunit, an adventure that keeps you guessing at every turn.  There is the familiar cast of characters from the first book, with an increased focus on the sweet but exhausted bishop’s wife Carrie Zimmerman, who is nine months pregnant and stressed about balancing her family’s meager finances with her ever-increasing frustration over her narrowing life.  “I love being a Mormon,” she whispers at every turn, while the realities of having a husband falsely arrested for murder pushes her to make choices that aren’t quite Mormon in nature. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: The Girls From Fourth Ward


“The only thing you can’t repent of is leaving the Church.  Then when you die you go to Outer Darkness.”  Sarah Renfro, from “The Girls From Fourth Ward” by Donna Banta

          In her book, “The Girls From Fourth Ward”, the author Donna Banta draws on the  key strength of fiction - she takes a real-life issue and then twists her characters into the situation in such a way that leaves you thinking “What if”?  What if Mormon theology gets mis-construed in such a fashion?  
          This book is a murder mystery centered around the murder of the Mormon bishop Brent Loomis.  The quandary in this book is the fate of four young Mormon girls, who are determined to achieve the highest level of Heaven.  Since Mormon theology teaches that you can only attain the highest level of Heaven by marrying a Mormon man in the temple - and that polygamy exists in Heaven - these girls are determined to get into Brigham Young University (BYU).  BYU is where all of the high-achieving Mormon boys study and is where the girls have their best shot at finding a suitable mate, so that they can spend eternity as top-tier first wives.  These girls are smart, ambitious, and boxed in by the narrow expectations of life as a Mormon woman.  
          Standing in the girls’ way is Bishop Loomis.  Loomis is, to be frank, the bishop from hell.  Sanctimonious and controlling, he runs his ward with an iron fist.  One of his powers as bishop is deciding whether or not to recommend students for admission to BYU.  He is the roadblock standing in the way of the girls achieving the highest level of salvation.  And so the girls find themselves contemplating the relative nature of sin.  As one of the girls Betsy says, “You can repent of anything, even murder.”  
          The narrative weaves between the Lieutenant Matt Ryan, who transferred to Abbottsville for a quieter life; the four girls of Abbottsville Fourth Ward; as well as an assortment of other peripheral characters.  There were a lot of characters that I recognized, both in myself and in the people around me.  The sweet, naive housewife; the overworked mother of nine; the girl expected to shoulder her mother’s burden; the brainy girl who wishes for the forbidden pleasure of graduate school, her own apartment, and a dog.  Donna describes the everyday details of Mormon life in a way that is very intimate and real.  Reading this book brought back a lot of memories for me; memories of being a Mormon girl frustrated about the narrow future that was ahead of me.  
          This is a excellent book to read if you grew up as a Mormon girl or if you want to understand a little more about the frustrations of life as a Mormon woman.  This is also a fun read, as Donna takes you on a romp through the darker underworld of Mormonism in such a way that you end up laughing and shaking your head at the girls that just won’t break free of their narrow world.

Donna is also the author of the very funny blog Ward Gossip, which features some of the characters portrayed in her book.  

This book is available both in ebook and softcover from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell's.