Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Bishop's Wife

What an absolute delight! I’ve long wanted to read a novel where my LDS (Mormon) faith was a relevant, deep part of the characters and story, in a book that wasn’t didactic and one that was aimed at a national audience, not just for Mormons. HERE IT IS, people!

THE BISHOP’S WIFE, by Mette Ivie Harrison is billed as a mystery, and while the mystery element is crucial to the story, I see it as the hanger on which the rest of the story is draped—the mystery holds up and gives shape to the characters and events. I loved Linda, the title character, with all of her strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. She’s real and flawed, often overwhelmed, but always doing her best, even when she’s hard on herself.

The story has a wonderful cast of varied characters, people that felt real to me—possibly because I know people like them living in my current and past neighborhoods and wards (congregations). I was especially touched by how Linda’s drive to investigate and poke her nose into others’ business is motivated by the loss of her own daughter many years before.

Her husband, the bishop, is just as real: a very much mortal man trying to do his best to care for those under his charge, doing so with blinders he isn’t even aware of. He’s easy to like even when you don’t agree with his ideas or actions because, like Linda, he’s honestly trying.

This is a great book for readers who enjoy women’s fiction and cozy mystery. It’s not a rip-roaring James Bond episode with explosions and car chases; the pace is much gentler as the author weaves the tale, laying down layer upon layer to gradually reveal the full picture.

It’s beautifully written, unpredictable yet satisfying, and a book I hope will find its way into many hands—it deserves to be widely read. I suspect that it would make a fantastic book club selection; so many parts are thought-provoking and would make for fascinating discussion. One element that will stay with me: Who ARE the people around me, really? I can’t know. Everyone has secrets. Most people have secrets that are benign, while others’ secrets are dark and twisted. And we simply can’t know which is which based on appearance.

My only (very minor) complaint: There were a few factual errors regarding the Mormon faith, which surprised me, seeing as the author is Mormon herself. They may well have been simple oversights, and seeing as I read an uncorrected ARC, I’m going to assume that those things will be corrected before the book officially hits shelves. That’s why I won’t list them; they may not be in the final version anyway, and even if they’re not fixed, those things are minor enough that the typical reader, especially one unfamiliar with the LDS faith, wouldn’t even know they’re there. The errors don’t have any negative impact on the story.

 It’s a rare book that I feel I can broadcast far and wide, recommending it to friends. This is one of them. Well done, Mette! THE BISHOP'S WIFE won't be out until December 30. Keep it in mind when you get an Amazon gift certificate for Christmas! Even better, go ahead and pre-order it HERE right now.


**Reminder: I have a standing policy of not accepting review requests from authors or publishers Reviews posted here are few and far between, and are always for books I've read and have personally decided to review here. Please do not contact me with review requests.**

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