Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review Discussion: The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Book: The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison
Genre: Mystery
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
For: Supporting local authors
From: Received for free from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Short Synopsis: Our main character, Linda, is very involved in her local Mormon (aka LDS) ward. That's due in part because she is the bishop's wife. (A bishop is the leader of the ward, or Mormon congregation.) Because of this, she befriends many people in her neighborhood and ends up learning some strange things. For instance, the husband of one of her friends dies, and then she (the bishop's wife) discovers he's been hiding a big secret. Also, the wife of another neighbor disappears in the night and suddenly she (the bishop's wife) is torn between helping him and his daughter, and having him accused of murder! But, did he really do it?

My Response: Ah, I have no idea how to review this book and I've been dreading it since I finished it. So, I guess I'll just jump in. I was intrigued by this book given that it's inspired by (but by no means an account of) the Susan Powell disappearance/murder that happened here in Utah several years ago. What a terrible story that was! Though I'm not that much into mysteries, I was hooked enough to want to find out how this particular story ended. And it wasn't as expected and it made me a little crazy! Maybe even a little mad. Sigh, and I can't say more about that as I don't want to be all spoilery, even more than I just was!

I see from other reviews that many readers really liked this character, Linda. But she made me crazy and I did not like her much at all. I felt like she was all up into everyone's business and justified it because she's the bishop's wife. It made me look at the bishop's wives that I know and wonder about them. I can't imagine them doing anything like this. Maybe visiting neighbors now and then. I don't know. Let's just say I don't think most bishop's wives are like this one! And she seemed to hate on and complain about everything, and her life just isn't all that bad. Sometimes I just wanted to tell her to grow up a little, you know?

Okay, now for all the Mormon talk. As a Mormon myself, it made me just roll my eyes. Like, a lot. I feel like for those wanting to know about what living in this church like, the author could have done a lot more showing and much less telling. There were so many asides of... "and we believe this and we think that and this is what we are supposed to do" that I was like, really? Just show us! All that narrator info dumping took me right out of the story. And also, I just feel like it cheapens our faith to an extent, makes us look so dumb, for lack of a better word. And I really wish that a book could be written that explains our lives without doing that. Am I making sense?

Mostly I just want to say that some of the culture of Mormon life depicted here is what I'd say to be correct, but much of it is not, at least what I see anyway. As with any group of people, everyone is different and I hate it when book such as this (or a movie or TV show or whatever) is written and read by the masses and then everyone thinks that's how we all are. We aren't, we are all different, just like everyone else.

Also, of course, every single freaking controversial thing going on with the church right now was brought up and analyzed. And maybe that was the subtle not-so-subtle point of this book,  I don't know. Because I do feel the author wrote this for a specific reason, I'm just not sure what that reason was. To voice her own issues with the church? I think so. To share our beliefs with the world? Maybe. To dis men? A little. To write a mystery? I'm not sure!

Bottom Line: An interesting story on some levels, and a maddening one on others.  I think most non-LDS readers will find it interesting, and some LDS ones too, but I've a sense that many LDS readers will cringe at most of it. (Now given everything I've said, you may think my star rating is a bit generous, and you'd be right. But I was still intrigued by this story, even with all the eye rolling! Two and half stars would have been more on target I'd say. But I don't know the HTML code for a half!)

Let's Talk About: Religion! There's a reason why I avoid the subject on my blog for the most part. . .but have at it today! Mark, get set, go!

Other Reviews:

But even without the Mormon perspective, it's a good mystery. I didn't see the ending. From Annette's Book Spot

I absolutely love books that give me insight into cultures, religions, and communities I’m unfamiliar with, and this novel did a great job with that. From S. Krishna's Books

I guess the best way to describe this book is that it's not a Mormon book, it's a suspense novel set among Mormons. From 2 Kids and Tired Books

For those wondering if the religious aspects are overwhelming, they're not. From Killin' Time Reading

I'm not sure how other Mormons will react. It may be difficult to see the culture from an outsider's view. Mette is a practicing Mormon, but this narrative reads more like someone on the outside looking in. From Emily's Reading Room


  1. I can totally see your POV with this book and that's why I have become very picky with LDS books. There was time I did read them all the time, but I don't think all bishop's wives are like this. Thanks so much for the honest review and this book is still on my radar but I am picky :)

    1. Julie: You'll have to tell me what you think if you decide to go for it. I wouldn't call this an "LDS" book exactly, just a book about LDS characters. Different in my head anyway.

  2. Oh no, I think blogger ate my comment.
    The short version was: that's an interesting review. I usually try to stay away from LDS fiction because it doesn't work for me. It feels like it's either "the church solves everything!" or "the church makes everything so complicated!" And that's not really what I like to think about when I read.

    1. Kathy: GAH! Why does it keep doing that! Stupid blogger! This book will say to you something totally different than either of those two things I bet. Actually, you should give this one a try. I would be very interested to see what you think of it! (You can borrow my copy for sure!)

    2. I agree with Suey. I think Kathy may come away totally different than both of us. And, I'd be interested to hear her feelings on it. Read it, Kathy!

  3. Yeah, I'm not really interested in reading the book, but I find all the reviews of it very interesting! Maybe someday I'll try it :)

  4. You're review is the exact way I felt while reading the first 25 pages and why I abandoned it. It made me so crazy! The tone of the book was just so freaking negative. I wish she could show both sides equally and more clearly because they definitely weren't. And, ugh, just ugh.

    As I said last night as book club, I love it when theology is in books. It is so interesting to me, but I guess I like made up versions more. I love Narnia because of the religious undertones. I love His Dark Materials because the theology is so different from mine that is strengthened my own convictions. I love the theology in Elantris because it made for an interesting story.

    Real theology? I'm not so sure about. Both Harrison and Hale made it seem like all Mormons are the way they depicted them, but it's not true. It just felt awkward and weird. I don't know if a book like you and I want with Mormons in it can exist.

  5. I've been hesitating on reading this one for a lot of the reasons you brought up in your review. I scanned the first few pages and couldn't stand the whiny, self-centered heroine -- if that's how she is throughout the whole book, then no thank you. I think I'll just go ahead and pass on this one.



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