Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Actor and the Housewife, Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale has exceeded my expectations for this book by a long shot. Initially I just wanted to read this out of religious solidarity. I had mild enjoyment from Austenland and haven't gotten around to reading her books for kids (which I hear are wonderful) but what sold me on this one is that the main character is a Mormon in a book not published by Deseret Book (or Covenant, Shadow Mountain, etc). This is a mainstream book with a character being Mormon in the same ways characters get to be Jewish or Catholic in other novels. Maybe I am seriously out of the loop but I don't know of any other mainstream, mass-market novels with main characters who are Mormon without said religion being the major theme of the book. So I was interested to see how this one went and impressed that this story hadn't been relegated to the softback Seagull book catalog Mormon romance department (full disclosure: of course I read those too).

Shannon Hale does a great job explaining Becky's Mormon faith in a natural and seamless way. I also love that Becky is so every-Mom. I think anyone who reads this book will have a more well rounded idea of the average Mormon family (clue: they're pretty much any average religious family).

I also think the "meet-cute" is pretty cute. It's a clever hook for a story and the story goes in so many places I did not see coming at all. It's a complete fantasy but the writing makes it believable. The characters are so fully drawn that it just makes sense that things would go they way they do for them. It did take me awhile to invest emotionally in this story but once I did it got a little too intense. I was not prepared to bawl my eyes out when reading this book. I know the emotional impact is never the same if you have an inkling of what is coming but I wish I had been slightly prepared. I could not stop crying for a good chunk of the last hundred pages. So not fun.

I also had slight issue with the ending but I know that is just my pathological need for fairy tale romance endings no matter how inplausible they may seem. This one is a pleasant happy ending and I guess it is for the best but I was ready to believe things were going end in a wedding. Especially after I had to be so emotionally drained by the story it only seems fair.

All in all a very impressive book with a very tacky looking book cover. The book cover would truly fit in with the Mormon romances in the Seagull catalog. Which is unfortunate because the story is light years better than its cover mates.

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