TITLE: The Backslider
AUTHOR: Levi S. Peterson
PUBLISHER: Signature Books
Sometimes being known as an avid reader has its disadvantages. Friends and family are constantly wanting to know, "What books are you reading now?" Even acquaintenances feel obliged to force books on me.
Such was the case with this book, labelled "Please return to Joe and Lee Bennion, Spring City Utah, 84662". I mention this partly because you might have to go to Joe and Lee to find a copy of the book; it seems likely that few bookstores and libraries keep it in stock - and partly to publically apologize to Lee Bennion for doubting her taste in literature.
At first glance "The Backslider" DOES appear to be a long shot. The blurb on the back says,
"Frank Windham is just a Mormon cowboy - hard-working, trying to be honest, convinced he is going to hell for incurable lust, and convinced that he deserves to. He has an ultra-pious mother, a brother who is more than just a little touched in the head, and a comfortable Lutheran girl friend who knows she has been saved. This is a novel about sin and salvation, written with raunchiness and reverence. It is also an extraordinary landmark in Mormon fiction."
I'm not sure just what it takes to make a "landmark in Mormon fiction", and reading the back cover of this book I wasn't sure I wanted to find out:
"Mesmerizing! I literally could not turn the pages fast enough to see how it was going to end. And what and ending! It deserves a celebration."
If this book has a major fault, I think it is has to do with being too upbeat. Can a twenty-year-old horny, backsliding, unhappy Mormon cowboy with a crazy mother, crazier brother, and pregnant girlfriend turn overnight into a happy, well-adjusted member of church and society? I doubt it - but that's just what Frank does. Don't let the time scale distract you, though, from enjoying a thoroughly upbeat, well-written book. I can't speak to the "landmark" claim, but everything else the back cover blurb says about this book is strictly true. Look up this book some time when you have nothing better to do - and say hello to Joe and Lee for me.