Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review:: The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

As you all know, I love nothing more than a book about a quirky young adult escaping the confines of a kooky religion, so when I heard about this book by Elna Baker I knew I had to read it. (Sadly, I could never get it in the Gainesville library system, which I'm now convinced is three buildings filled with books that no one wants to read. But getting a copy here in drunk heathen town was a total breeze.)

The book, though technically a memoir, is written in the style of loosely connected essays. While this is a style of writing I love, it makes it a hard book to review. But the gist of the story is this: Elna Baker is a gal in her mid twenties, living in NYC and working in the entertainment industry. She's also a virgin and a Mormon. Sort of.

The title of the book comes from the dance that Elna attends every year where a bunch of local Mormons get together to dress up, dance, and hopefully find a spouse for now and all of eternity. This is where, for the reader, it all starts to seem kind of confusing. On the one hand, Elna actively participates in these and other church activities, but she also makes fun of them and clearly senses that she's out of her element. She dates Mormon men but feels no connection to them. Then she finds the man of her dreams but is completely thrown when she discovers he's an atheist. Throughout the whole book there is this constant struggle between who Elna wants to be, who Elna thinks she should be, and who Elna actually is. Plus, I also get the impression that if her family weren't Mormons, she would have no problems giving it all up. In fact one of the main reasons she's never given up on her religion is because if she stopped being a Mormon then she wouldn't be able to see her sisters get married in the Mormon church. (I know I've mentioned it before, and I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, but the threat of not being able to be an active participant in your family life is a cult-like tactic that some religions use to keep members. Just sayin'.)

Elna Baker is a comedienne at heart so there are parts of this book that are laugh out loud funny. But her story made me sad too because she's hopelessly naive. (She wasn't aware you could get porn on the internet.) This isn't to say she's ignorant, in fact she's incredibly well read and has traveled the world. But, as Jay pointed out (he read the book too), she traveled the world with her family, a large group of Mormons. She had never really done much without them or with someone whose opinions are vastly different than that of her own. She's seen the world, but from one singular, very insular viewpoint.

Obviously, growing up as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I could relate to a lot of Elna's internal struggles. Being on the other side of that now, there were times when I was reading this that I just wanted to grab Elna, shake her, and tell her to make up her mind already. And not for the obvious reason that I think she'd be better off not being a Mormon, but because everyone is better off just doing what comes naturally and not always worrying about what your family, friends, congregation, or god thinks. I really hope Elna gets it all figured out soon. And then I hope she writes a book about it.

10 comments:

DAWN said...

I cant wait to track this book down!

Daphne said...

I love books like this too. This sounds pretty good. I was friends with a large group of Mormons in high school -- they were mostly "jack" Mormons, but a few ended up being totally crazy churchy. Aigh!

Tammie said...

dawn: i know you'll love it!!

daphne: interesting. the huge mormon church here (i think technically its in lake oswego) makes me kinda nauseous when i drive by it. its so vulgar and ostentatious.

Dani said...

This sounds really interesting. What would I do without you book whores (meant as a compliment) to give me suggestions.

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

Interesting....Being a very unreligious person, I'm always a little intrigued about the appeal of a religion that basically tries to control so much. My son was good friends with a girl who was Mormon, she wasn't even supposed to attend his graduation party because it took place on Sunday (she snuck over -- hurray for her).

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

ooh this sounds good. Thanks for the review. AFter I read books like this I wonder where they are now.

Carla said...

I am totally intrigued and might just have to read it. Their religion is so unlike the faith I know and grew up with. There are a large population of Mormons - and I've known many - here because we have one of their "temples" close by.

Not Hannah said...

I like the idea of this book, but honestly, I'm here to comment on your header. MuhGAWD, woman, those are some beautiful dahlias.

Becky..AMHW said...

Having grown up in the Utahiest location in Utah, and have left the Mormon church (my family was never all that active in it), I'm all over this.

First thing I thought upon looking at the cover of the book is that her skirt was too short for the dance. Much much much too short. Knee length or longer Miss Molly.

BTW, Utah has the highest online porn subscription rate in the country. Seems like getting free fluff isn't good enough. Be honest. Pay for your services.

Tammie said...

oh you'll love this book.

and yeah, i thought the same thing about the skirt. if you read the book you'll find shes kinda on the fence about a lot of things.