Friday, February 7, 2014
Book Review: The Accidental Marriage by Annette Haws
Author: Annette Haws
Enjoyment Rating: ****
This book would be rated: PG-13
When Nina and Elliot meet for the first time in Edinburgh in the 1970s, the members the branch they attend in Scotland (he's a missionary, she's studying abroad), probably think that they've got more in common with each other than they do with anyone else in their congregation. And on the surface of things, that's true. They're the same age, they're both from Utah, they're both LDS. And that's pretty much where the similarities end. Nina lives in Salt Lake City, probably in Federal Heights or Yalecrest or the Avenues, where her dad is a lawyer, her mom is involved in the country club and fundraising, and church is a good way to make social connections on Sunday. Elliot shares a bedroom in his tiny three-bedroom ranch house in Logan with two of his six younger siblings. His family's life revolves around attending church meetings, holding Family Home Evening, and working together, but not always with a smile.
I'm not giving away any surprises to say that Nina and Elliot fall in love in Scotland and return to Utah, where they quickly see that they don't fit in with their prospective in-laws. However, they're determined to marry, and they also have determination in common, so they're married in quick order. And then, predictably, the whole thing starts to fall apart. Nina hates her job teaching English at a rural high school outside Logan, where the men are inbred misogynists, Elliot doesn't understand why cooking and cleaning doesn't come as naturally to her as it did to her mother. She's secretly thinking about law school; he's secretly wondering if she really has faith in his ability to be the provider of their family. They fight. A lot.
I know the last paragraph probably sounds like I didn't like the book, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I loved it. I loved seeing Mormon culture at work, and seeing the way that people's interpretation of what it means to be Mormon can rub up against other people's interpretations. I loved seeing self-righteousness and hypocrisy at work. I loved seeing Nina resisting the boxes she found herself put in. I'm delighted to see authors who aren't afraid to present the complications of Mormon culture.