9/9/08

My take on Angel Falling Softly

I don't want to stir up the hornet's nest again (start here), but I did promise to give my opinion on Angel Falling Softly by Eugene Woodbury.

First for the issues regarding this book as LDS fiction. As I said before, Mr. Woodbury has the right to write as he wishes. Zarahemla can publish whatever they wish to publish. I'm not going to censor them. If what they write and/or publish is outside LDS interests, then the books won't sell.

We, as readers, play a huge part in molding the future of LDS fiction. Publishing is a business, and as such, it must be profitable. When a book sells well, readers can expect similar books to be published. When a certain type of book does not sell well, you can be sure fewer and fewer of those types of books will be showing up. We cast our vote as to what is good and/or praiseworthy with our checkbooks, every time we purchase or don't purchase a book.

I don't think that Woodbury or Zarahemla intentionally misled readers, trying to sneak a "racy" book over on the LDS audience. They make it clear on the back cover what to expect when they say, "As the two women push against every moral boundary in order to protect their families, the price of redemption will prove higher than either of them could have possibly imagined." The phrase "every moral boundary" seems pretty inclusive.

I do think, however, that some readers will see the Zarahemla name and assume that it won't be "that" bad. The lesson from this is, don't assume anything. Before buying a book, read a few reviews or talk to people who have read it. With the number of LDS bloggers who talk about books, it would be rare to find a newly published LDS fiction title that doesn't have someone blurbing about it.

And here's a good place to plug my other blog. I post the new books there. After you read them, go post a comment. Help your brothers and sisters out, so they'll know what to expect.

Now, about the book itself. I wasn't as upset about it as some readers were. Maybe that's because I was forewarned. The idea of vampires in an LDS neighborhood didn't upset me too much, but I didn't think there was enough backstory and explanation to get comfortable with it, nor was there enough development of the mother's character for us to understand how a previously faithful LDS woman could so quickly jump to vampirism as the cure for her daughter's situation.

I thought the sex scenes, although extremely tame by national standards, were too descriptive. I didn't like the portrayal of Job—I didn't feel it was accurate. However, that is one character's opinion of Job. It would have been nice to see opposing thoughts and views.

I didn't feel that the daughter was doomed. The way Woodbury sets up how vampires are made was very interesting—it's based on a genetic adaptation to a particular virus. For me, that takes it out of the realm of damnation and into the medical. But for this to have been really effective, I think Woodbury should have given us more.

In fact, my biggest complaint about the book is that it needed more: more backstory; more of the relationship between the sisters (there was great potential for exploring the question of how we make choices with the limitations that life gives us; this was mostly ignored); more details on the virus; more explanation of the business takeover; more depth to the mother, more struggle for her; more explanation of why it was necessary to bite the mother before biting the girl; more details on Milada's background. If some of this had been filled in, and some of the intimate descriptions left out, I think fewer people would have had a problem with this book.

4 comments:

Christopher Bigelow said...

**chirp, chirp**

Hey, thanks for the review. I actually agree with much of it, including wishing some of the story elements had been made more clear and developed, and I thought we didn't see enough of Rachel's Mormon response/reasoning.

But I found the book worth publishing as something quite readable and quite different from anything I'd seen in Mormon fiction before, and the book does have some ardent fans, including many who like that the author didn't spell everything out but left mysteries and questions.

As far as the Zarahemla "brand," I don't count AFS as our edgiest title; it's probably about 3rd of the 7 we've published so far. So I hope readers of this blog will continue to consider Z. books on a case-by-case basis, realize you're going to get a wide range from us, and enjoy the ones you're able to! We'll be sure that each title's back-cover copy shows some yellow or red flags, if needed (in retrospect, we could have done a little better on AFS in this area).

Lucy said...

I admit I didn't read this book because of the reviews. I do agree with you though that we have to use our influence as consumers to show the LDS market what we really want to read.

Th. said...

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Thanks for my copy, LDSP and Z. I've read it and blogged about it twice now, but I agree that you probably don't want a revived hornet's nest now that we're so long after the fact, so I'll just leave the links and whoever's interested can check it out.

(1 and 2)

Danyelle Ferguson said...

LDSP - I agree with your "more" list. If there would have been more in those areas, and less in the intimacy area, I would have enjoyed the book much more. Thanks for sharing your review!