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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Three Recent Winners of Mormon Literary Awards

by Scott Hales:

Something is always happening in the Mormon literary world, yet lately it has seemed that things have slowed down on the "literary" fiction front. I know of several authors—William Morris, Steven Peck, Mahonri Stewart, and Douglas Thayer—who have lit fic that is either almost ready to be published or well on its way, but for now, Mormon lit enthusiasts have to sit tight and catch up on what they've missed.

I have my own backlist of Mormon novels to read. Most of them have been sent to me by authors and publishers looking for reviews. The two I'm most excited about right now are Ryan Rapier's The Reluctant Blogger, which I was reluctant to read until everyone I know started recommending it to me, and Jennifer Quist's Love Letters of the Angels of Death, which I also initially blew off until the Deseret News gave it an unfair review that stirred up a small controversy (see here and here). I've already started Love Letters, and I am ready to proclaim it the most beautifully-written Mormon novel since Angela Hallstrom's Bound on Earth.

Also on my to-read list are three recent winners of Mormon literary awards. The first is Sarah M. Eden's Longing for Home: A Proper Romance (Shadow Mountain), a series romance novel that surprised everyone by taking home the Association for Mormon Letter’s 2013 novel award. I know practically nothing about this book, except for Amazon's description of it, so I'm curious to see how it fits in with past award winners like Steve Peck's The Scholar of Moab and Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist.

The second is Sarah Dunster's Mile 21 (Cedar Fort), which recently took home this year's Whitney Award for Best General Novel. I've been a big fan of Dunster's work since reading herhistorical novel Lightning Tree last year, and I'm interested to see how she handles the story of a modern-day twenty-something Mormon widow in the always-awkward LDS dating scene. So far reviews of Mile 21 have been good, and it doesn't hurt that it takes place in Rexburg on the BYU-Idaho campus, where I made a lot of good memories back in the day.

Finally, I'm interested in Julie Berry’s All the Truth That's In Me (Viking), the winner of the 2013 Whitney Award for Best Young Adult General Novel. Like Longing for Home, I know next to nothing about this book except for Amazon's description of it. However, my fellow MoLit enthusiast Andrew Hall recently raved about it on a recent episode of The Good Word podcast, and I've been interested in it ever since. Plus, it's a vaguely historical novel about a rigid, secretive community ... which is enough to get me interested.

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