The Wonderful, Wacky, Whitney Awards

As promised, here are pictures from the Whitney Awards last month. And I should clarify the title of this blog—there is nothing wacky about the Whitney Awards. Rob Wells, as founder of the Whitney Awards and head of the committee the past two years, is all business (no pun intended Mr. recent MBA grad) and works hard to keep everything having to do with the awards both professional and ethical. But this past April he was a little busy with graduation and everything. In fact, Rob’s graduation was the same day as the Whitney Awards Banquet. Talk about being double booked . . . which is probably why Rob left it up to the presenters to do their own thing. Note to future Whitney presidents: This may not be the best idea. Unless, of course, you want wacky. Which is exactly what happened—all night long. Save for the classy duo of Annette Lyon and Angela Eschler, every single presentation was, well . . . goofy. It seems that as writers, most of us found it beyond our abilities to simply read the finalists and present the awards. We felt compelled to write, at times stretching the titles in our respective categories to the absurd. But, hey, we had fun!

Hope you have fun looking at the pictures. And if you didn’t go this year, plan to attend in 2010. Aside from being wacky, it’s really inspiring to see talented, hard working authors recognized for their efforts.

Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys

Over the past couple of months as I’ve been resting a lot, trying to keep my breakfast down and this baby inside where it belongs, I’ve had some time to catch up on my reading. The stack of books on my night stand has now dwindled to a reasonable half dozen, and I’ve crossed several “must reads” off my list.

Unfortunately, a lot of the books I’d looked forward to for a while, were . . . less than appetizing when I finally got to them. I’m sure this had to do with my real appetite at the time and the constant nausea I was dealing with. My usual pickiness tends to intensify with pregnancy. However, there were a few books that captured my attention and held it, transporting me from my misery for the time I spent with them. To those authors, I say a heartfelt thank you. Your talents and hard work became, for me, just what the doctor ordered when I needed it most.

There are three such books I want to blog about, and I’ll try to spend a little time doing that over the next couple of months. These blogs are not intended to be thorough reviews, but rather a recommendation to friends for books I feel are worth both your time and money. As you might have guessed, the first book I’d like to tell you about is Janet Kay Jensen’s Don’t You Marry The Mormon Boys.

It took me all of a half page to become engrossed in this delightful, interesting story about Dr. Andy McBride and his ex-girfriend of sorts, Dr. Louisa Martin. Some quick backstory—Andy and Louisa met while attending medical school at the University of Utah. Though each had strong feelings for the other, there were some pretty intense obstacles in their way—like the fact that Louisa is from a polygamist family, and Andy’s father is an attorney who prosecutes polygamists (ouch- love it!). The reader learns this, and a lot of other interesting tidbits through both Andy and Louisa as they each reflect on the past as they live their current, very different, lives.

By choice, Andy has landed in a small community in rural Kentucky. The chapters entailing his life there—everything from his home with the wrap-around porch, to the characters (and they are characters!) he meets—were so vivid I found myself yearning to visit. I love that the author spends time building his life there. From the funny—being awoken from a lovely dream about Louisa to find himself being kissed by a horse—to the poignant—his association and friendships with the local band and one of its members he is ultimately unable to save—I enjoyed getting to know Andy and seeing the details of his life.

While Andy is in Kentucky, Louisa is back at home in Gabriel’s Landing, the small polygamist community she was raised in. Though her mother has passed away, Louisa has two other “step-mothers” and a very loving father. It was with both the blessing and financing of the elders in the community that Louisa attended medical school, and now she has returned, hoping to improve health care for those she knows and loves. But it isn’t long before she runs into trouble. Louisa’s knowledge doesn’t mesh with the old ways of doing things, and her attempts to improve life—especially for the women of Gabriel’s Landing—soon get her into trouble. But Louisa isn’t the only one in her family struggling with obedience. Her father’s refusal to force her to wed brings additional problems and repercussions.

Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that early on, it is apparent Andy and Louisa both still have feelings for the other. But for much of the book it seems that any lasting relationship will be impossible (ah, the makings of a good romance :D).

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns these intertwined stories took. I appreciated the time the author must have spent researching modern day polygamy, and I felt I had a good look inside what must be reality for many of those sects still practicing today.

I also enjoyed all the intricate details and subplots woven into the story. That Andy has a service dog due to past problems with seizures, was intriguing, as were the folks he met in Kentucky and their stories. I thought the author did a great job showing us Andy’s life as a small town doctor and Louisa’s agonizing struggles back in Utah.

One of my favorite characters in this book was, surprisingly, Louisa’s father (and equally surprising, I really didn’t care for Andy’s dad). The author made him human, and his choice–to live the life he’d been raised in and committed to for so long or to do what he knew was really best for his daughter–was deeply moving. Though the story clearly showed many of the evils of modern day polygamy, it also showed at least some of its followers as kind, loving, and concerned parents.

As I read Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys
I discovered the author and I have something in common. We both enjoy writing long, complicated stories. When it comes to reading a good book, I’ve always thought, “the longer the better,” but I actually felt a little differently this time. SO much happens at the end of this book, that I was left feeling a little dizzy (okay, so maybe that was the pregnancy thing), and I would have much preferred the author saved the events at the ending for a sequel—which I would have eagerly bought. As it is, the ending is surprising, to say the least, and I felt a bit too much happened. And yes, this is definitely the pot calling the kettle black here 😀 I’ve been criticized for doing the exact same thing with my own stories, but I didn’t get it before now. Thanks Ms. Jensen for the lesson—and for the fine read.

Andy and Louisa are characters that will stay with me for a long time. And I have hope that maybe I’ll see them in another book someday soon.