From: Donna Banta
Subject: A Ward Gossip Book Review!
When C. L. Hanson (also known as chanson) isn't writing her Sunday in Outer Blogness column on Main Street Plaza, hosting the Brodie Awards, posting on Letters From A Broad, reviewing LDS-themed books, or otherwise working to unite the greater Mormon community, she is also illustrating and composing works of fiction. I recently had the pleasure of reading this talented and prolific writer's engaging book, ExMormon.
Set in locales ranging from Minnesota to Utah to the mission field in France, ExMormon is a series of eight and a half beautifully illustrated novellas about kids growing up in three different Mormon families. Hanson neither condemns nor promotes her former faith. Instead she presents an even-handed depiction of LDS culture. As a result, the reader is given a clear picture of the highly structured Mormon community, the self-righteous attitudes it encourages, and the subversive behavior it inspires. Each of her characters possesses the innocent and trusting voice of a Mormon kid, a perspective that serves to enhance both the humor and pathos of their experiences.
Lynn, for example, begins her story with, "The very first thing I heard upon arriving at Youth Conference was a dirty joke." Later at the same conference, friends in her "Sexual Purity" class are whispering about a girl who sneaked a boy into her room.
In another episode, Jill falls for Walter, the hunky lead in her stake's production of Saturday's Warrior. What begins as a charming first romance, quickly devolves into a tawdry sexual liaison in the baptismal font. -- A maddening yet priceless encounter that rivals the cabana scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Later, Elder Spencer Hobbs unexpectedly breaks mission rules by sitting in an off-limits Bordeaux cafe with Tanya, a confident and curvaceous ex-Mormon girl. Looking him unashamedly in the eye, she describes the Elder as having, "A squeaky clean exterior with tremendous sexual energy bubbling right under the surface." He falls for her in spite of himself, vows to see her again, and later runs across her in another place he never expected he would be.
Expectations weigh heavily on the characters in ExMormon, as we watch them travel that straight and narrow path from Youth Conference, to Orem High, to Brigham Young University, to the mission field, to a temple wedding. While their lives delicately intertwine, some venture out of the church and some remain faithful. In the end, all are faced with the task of accepting each other, another intriguing subject that I hope C. L. Hanson will address in her next book.
ExMormon will resonate with anyone who has grown up in an LDS family, as well as satisfy and inform those who are curious about the Mormon experience.
Also it runs circles around anything on the shelves at Deseret Book.