Saturday, March 3, 2012

Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald

Born in Price, Utah, in 1907 to a Scandinavian Mormon mother and an Irish Catholic father, he grew up influenced by both cultures. He left Utah behind at age eighteen, working at such varied jobs as playing in a jazz band, working in a bank, and serving as an overseas newspaper correspondent. At the time of his first break into the national literary scene, he was a purchaser for a steel company in California. Fitzgerald began writing Papa Married a Mormon, a family history about his boyhood, to fulfill a promise made to his mother on her death-bed. She implored him to tell the story of those who settled the west. Not so much a story of the Mormons, but of the people themselves – specifically Fitzgerald’s family and members of the Mormon/Gentile community in which they lived.

Set in the fictional southern Utah community of Adenville, Fitzgerald creates a nostalgic picture of small town life in early 1900s. The story tells of the conflicts between the Mormons and gentiles within the community, and how leaders on both sides managed to unify the town, despite their differences and animosities. Because many parts of the book are similar in prose to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn novels, Papa Married a Mormon fits the mold of a Victorian look at an era long gone.

This is an interesting look at the Mormon community from someone on the outside without it being anti.  Wonderful story to read to family but be warned; there is some of the “Wild West shoot-em-up cowboy” scenes and a few “fallen women” too.  I read this for one of my book clubs and it was a unanimous success.  We all loved it!

 4 Stars (Rated PG for the reasons listed above.)

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