Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bound On Earth

When I finished the first chapter, I loved this book. Beth is struggling through Thanksgiving with her family after just leaving her husband who suffers from Bipolar disorder and quit taking his medication. By its middle, I had changed my mind. Tina seemed to be every character in a Jack Weyland novel. She does bad things and bad things happen to her. As I turned the last page, I loved it again. Wait a minute. This is it. These are the stories of families trying. Some of their tales are quite extraordinary.

I don't generally read much LDS fiction. I find the stories usually a bit too tidy and my most important qualifier for really good literature is that it be honest. A lot of time, LDS fiction can be fluffy. Yes, there is usually some necessary conflict that involves the bad character doing bad things. By its end, however, the punishment usually fits the crime and when a miracle is in order, it rarely fails to show up.

I saw a recommendation for this book on Blog Segullah and it got such rave reviews from some seemingly picky readers that I requested it from my library. It's brand new and I was the very first person to check it out. If you consider where I live and what kind of book it is, you'll agree that it was a special moment.

At just under 200 pages, this is the kind of book you can easily read in a day or two. I started it last night and have had a hard time putting it down. Bound on Earth follows the Palmer family through many generations, though not chronologically. The chapters bounce around in time and between family members, a writing technique I'm not always super fond of. Part of me thinks it's a shortcut, to eliminate the tricky transitions that progress a plot. But I also admit that as a reader, it can work well to experience multiple first hand narratives; it makes it much easier to get the "BIG" picture. And this is a book that is all about the big picture.

What is marriage? What is family? How do they survive? Do our trials break us apart or bind us together? Hallstrom doesn't cut corners with heartache. The situations she puts her characters in are vividly real, so real that I felt like I knew these people. I do know them. They just have different names.

If you're wary of LDS literature, give this a try. If you are looking for a great book to read with your ward bookgroup, this is your book. Or if you simply want to discover some great characters that you feel sad to part with at the end...read it. It's legitimately good.

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