May 12, 2008

The Path of Dreams review

Over at the Letters from a Broad blog (read the whole thing), C.L. Hanson reviews The Path of Dreams and concludes that she has "never read a novel that more perfectly captures the Mormon view of the perfect love story." She's almost tempted, she goes on to say,

to call it canonical in the mathematical sense. If the stars were to align for a pair of Mormons to make their love and marriage ideal in every way, the result would be exactly the tale you find here in this book.

There's a touch of damning with faint praise in that remark, but as it accurately sums up what I intended, I'll take it as a compliment. Hanson goes on to identify the same plot problem that Stephen (my editor at Zarahemla Books) also spotted (my upcoming novel will be published by Zarahemla).

Namely, the story resolves the major conflict first, the secondary conflict second, and the tertiary conflict last, which results in the plot taking a somewhat meandering and episodic path through the last third of the book. Structurally speaking, it does resemble a serialized romance manga.

Hanson, though, finds the glass half-full, asserting that this lack of conflict

actually provides an original burst of realism compared a lot of romantic comedies which rely on some of the most absurd situations in order to keep the lovers apart or to keep them (for a time) from realizing they're made for each other.

Rather, she sees Elly's "bland and uninteresting" ex-missionary companions, Melanie and Susan, as more significant flaws in the narrative. I confess that they exist mostly as plot devices to push the story in certain directions. In my upcoming novel, all the cardboard characters will be male (I say half in jest).

Hanson also touches upon the autobiographical tone of the novel and links to this post about "editing one's life." I concur completely with the concept. Unlike Chris though (read the post for the context), in my case I looked back on my college years and simply reversed all my bad decisions.

If I could manage my personal and mental life like a Stalinist state, I'd spend a lot of time airbrushing the past to conform with the whims of the neurotic dictator in charge of my current state of mind. Second best option: write fiction.

Hanson's concluding comment is perhaps her most intriguing, touching upon my self-classification of the novel as "home literature." For anyone "hoping to understand Mormon culture, values, and mindset," she suggests, "if you get this story, you get a whole lot of what makes Mormons tick."

I hadn't realized that the story had such anthropological value. But from now on I'll recommend it on that basis as well.

P.S. Hanson also launched this great thread about Stephenie Meyer. Her post Porn and Me refers to the same analogy I cite (see, I didn't make it up). Her post Questioning Objectification is about the most rational thing I've read on the subject ever.

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# posted by Blogger C. L. Hanson
5/12/2008 9:57 AM   
I'm glad you liked my review. I do mean it to be a positive review even if I wasn't shy about mentioning some criticisms. If you look in the comments, you'll see I specifically suggested to some of my regular readers to get a copy and read it. :D

I'm also glad to hear you'll be publishing a novel through Zarahemla Books. I thought about recommending them for this work (in case you were thinking of going from self-publishing to a larger publisher), but this particular work seemed perhaps a bit mainstream/orthodox for them. Naturally I'm curious to read your next novel and see where you go from here.
# posted by Blogger Eugene
5/12/2008 10:59 AM   
Yes, and thank you again. Greatly appreciated! The novel was originally published by Parables (where you can still get the first edition), a "less edgy" competitor to Zarahemla. They declined to do a second edition and reassigned the rights, so I adopted this approach.

My next novel, Angel Falling Softly, is quite different. It also takes place in contemporary Mormon society, but is much darker and with a stronger fantasy element.