Go to Homepage   Natalie R. Collins: Wives and Sisters

 

Crescent Blues Book Views St. Martin's Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0312334281

Natalie Collins' debut novel traces the life experiences of Allison Jensen, beginning with the abduction of her eight-year-old playmate after the perpetrator holds them both at gunpoint. Allison grows up in a strict, insular Mormon community with a ferociously religious father. One trauma follows another, including a frightening sighting of the bearded man (never apprehended) who took her friend and the death of her mother. The church leaders attempt to solve all problems with prayer and blessings. Disenchanted, the grown-up Allison abandons the religion she sarcastically calls "The Saints."

Book: collins, wives and sisters

Unfortunately, Allison's problems continue in the form of Mark Peterson, her sister's husband. Church elders forgive and hide Mark's shady past, but he continues to behave badly. Mark's abusive nature and unhealthy obsession with Allison makes it difficult for her to escape from her family or her past. When Allison embarks on a personal quest to investigate and resolve the disappearance of her friend and Mark's evil deeds, her nightmarish existence only gets worse.

Author Collins grew up Mormon and clearly feels no love for "The Saints." Through her characters' flaws, she excoriates the men who run the church and the women who go along with their bizarre and draconian beliefs, rules and actions. Collins gives no balancing examples, no ordinary nice people living quiet Mormon lives. Surely such people exist, but not in this book.

Wives and Sisters kept me turning the pages with fast pacing and a seemingly endless number of things going wrong to provide cliff-hanger chapter endings. The questions about what happened to the abducted child and the nature of Mark's problems keep the reader wondering…and reading. Why would she stay in Utah with the crazy, evil Mormons? Overall, though, the book provides a fast, enjoyable read and a fascinating, voyeuristic glimpse into a mysterious subset of American culture. I look forward to Collins' next novel.

Jodi Forschmiedt

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