What would people think?
What if people didn’t like it?
What if people read and think I deserve to be stoned in town square?
Fine, scratch that last one. I didn’t really worry about being stoned. And we don’t even have a town square. But I did worry about one question in particular, far more than any other.
See, I live in a place that isn’t particularly Mormon. The Mormon church does have a small congregation in our area, but for the most part, the people that I interact with on a daily basis–at the school, the gym, the grocery store, the library–they do not share my Mormon faith. I also have many family members who are not Mormon, most of them, actually. My parents are converts, and my husband is too. So most of our extended family? Not Mormon.
And yet, these lovely wonderful friends and family members were being kind and generous and wanted to support my novel. They were pre-ordering and spreading the word and making me feel loved and lifted.
And this made me worry.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think I wrote a “Mormon” book. It IS a book about finding faith and connecting with your family and redefining your relationship with God. Those themes are pretty universally Christian. But there are elements (just a few) that make the story uniquely Mormon. I am a Mormon, after all. Would the Mormon elements of the story be confusing to others? Would it make people uncomfortable? Would people feel duped when half way through the book, the Mormons show up? I wondered if I needed to send out an email that said, “Hey, just so ya know. There’s Mormons in the book. And they’re the good guys.”
My husband encouraged me to relax, to let the book speak for itself. My critique partner asked me, if those same friends and family members I worried about called me up and asked me to tell them about my faith, would I say no? Would I run away in fear, worry all over my heart? Of course I wouldn’t. So I shouldn’t fear the message the book shares either. Very good, very true, very wonderful points.
And so I did try and relax. I was honest when people asked about the book. I tried to be gracious when people offered their support. Book release came and went, and the reviews and feedback started to trickle in. I asked my nonmember friends what they thought. Did it feel preachy? (No.) Did the Mormon parts bother you? (Not at all.) Did you feel pressured to convert? (Are you crazy? I also read books about the Amish without feeling like I need to throw away my Iphone and move to Amish country. Let it go already.) (I totally didn’t make that answer up. Real friend. Real answer.)
And so I started to relax. (For real, this time.) And I’m still relaxed. I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the positive reception the book has received by so many. It’s selling very well… just made it into the top twenty on Deseret Book’s best seller general fiction list. It’s been nominated for a Whitney Award, an annual awards program for books written by LDS Authors, and it received positive reviews both by Meridian Magazine and LDS Women’s Book Review. These things make me happy and grateful and heart-full.
I’m sure there are plenty (friends and family not withstanding) who have read the book and didn’t care for it. It’s inevitable that everyone will not always like everything. And I’m good with that. But when one reviewer recently commented that she’d felt misled by the book and wished she’d known that the book was about Mormons, my original question resurfaced.
Do Mormons need warning labels?
I’m not sure there’s one answer that would ever fit every person. We all come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences that have contributed to our view of things and people and religions. But I do know this. I am not ashamed of my faith. Take it or leave it, I love what I believe in and I love making it a part of the stories that I write. So? I don’t know what comes after the so. I guess I just felt like I needed to say it out loud.