Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mormon/Menno novels

I had heard that there is a whole sub-genre of books and movies out there that is specifically by and for Mormons. Then recently at a garage sale I picked up a novel called "What the Doctor Ordered" and entered this interesting sub-culture.

The story was pure fluff--college student goes to stay with old aunt who is determined to match her up with cute doctor, she is equally determined not to get matched up with cute doctor, yada yada.

What I found most interesting was the way the Mormon practices and terms were casually woven in with no explanation for tourists like me--ward suppers, high priests, sacraments, home teachers, and so on.

I didn't catch any whiffs of proselytizing, no conversions carefully or clumsily constructed to show me how it's done. The only obvious plug was the doctor telling the pregnant girl exactly which 800 number to call for support.

As I recall, Clara Bernice Miller decided to write Katie with this same taken-for-granted attitude toward the Amish, with no sidebars explaining covering strings and dates after the singing. I think I like that. So when my Mennonite novel comes out, roughly in 15 years judging from how fast it's coming together, don't expect belabored explanations of acapella singing, head coverings, CLP Sunday school quarterlies, the church covenant, and canoeing or hiking in skirts.

Quote of the Day:
"I can't wait til Friday."
--Zack the longsuffering nephew, listening to Emily and Jenny talking in weird accents. Zack goes home for the weekends, you see.


  1. You hit the nail on the head about why all those 'Amish' books are truly awful. I just got done reading "Death takes a Buggy Ride" and it was so frustrating. My dad wanted me to read it first, and if it was too bad he won't read it. He doesn't want to be distracted from the story line by the inaccuracies about the culture. And this book sure had some big ones. I mean, come on, a lady who's husband has just been killed does not do chores the next few days. There would be a ton of Amish neighbors doing that.
    Anyway, I sincerely hope it doesn't take fifteen years to write your book.

  2. I just read your previous 2 posts with much interest! You see, next Friday we drive from North Texas clear up to Ontario! In fact we will be staying in a cabin in Sioux Narrows, just south of Kenora! Naturally when I saw the word, Kenora I thought,
    "She has to be talking about Ontario, there can't possibly be one in Oregon!"

    "Sho-nuff" as my grandpa would say! Small world!


  3. any explanation on wearing black bullet proof nylons in the heat of summer can also be left out!=)

  4. I really can't wait 15 years for your book. Well, maybe I will still be able to read when I'm 81! I vividly recall not appreciating Clara Bernice Miller's books. Oh they were interesting enough. Now I wonder if I was reacting to her portrayal of Mennonites in a negative way. I don't read the current Amish novels though.

  5. Poor Zach doesn't realize how wonderful "weird" accents are!

    So how about an explanation page in the back of your book for your loyal non-Menno fans?

  6. Who would've thunk that I'd see "Morman/Menno" side by side like that.

    And thanks for 'the rest of the story'. It ain't right without it.

    There! Editor needed.


  7. The one obvious flaw in that idea is that I think the best books are the ones which take people to places they've never been. You don't want the people who have never been immersed in a Mennonite setting, the ones who should enjoy the book the most, getting too confused to really enjoy it to it's fullest. While I don't advocate the whole sidebar idea, there are more clever and hidden ways to do explanations, aka, "show me don't tell me." for instance, you could have some guy in the mall ask them what that black thing on their head is, and they could explain, both to the guy and to the readers.

  8. I'm totally with you on your approach to writing Menno fiction, although Emily describes a good way to weave in explanations when necessary. It would be interesting to know the typical non-Menno/Amish response to a book like _Katie_; even though CBM doesn't explain anything, her descriptions and dialogue speak volumes about the culture, whether one is familiar with it or not (IMHO). The scene where Katie gets so much satisfaction out of working circles around the sanctimonious girl, for example. Priceless!

    This will be a long 15 years!

  9. 15 years! If I come clean your windows, could we narrow it down to 5 or so? Pauline