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Bentley, "A Wandering Star" (reviewed by Marilyn Brown) Options · View
Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2012 5:28:31 AM

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Title: A Wandering Star
Author: Elizabeth Petty Bentley
Publisher: Parables (parablespub.com)
Genre: Mainstream Literary Fiction
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 168
Binding: Online only, at Smashwords
ISBN: n/a
Price: $3.99

Reviewed by Marilyn Brown for the Association for Mormon Letters

Despite a beginning that seemed more philosophical than eye-catching, Bentley's novel is a work to wrap your brain around. I was pleasantly surprised to read fiction that grappled with LDS cultural philosophy. Although I was impatient to "get to the story," I saw that her intellectual gymnastics realistically portrayed the activities of our study groups--something I haven't seen much of in our publications. For example, our protagonist takes over a literary magazine from a disenfranchised genius who leaves the Church just as his mission ends. She is in love with him, but realizes that marriage to her sane, stable fiance is the best thing for her LDS life.

This "wandering star" woman stabilizes herself with the gospel while making creative intellectual explorations. She faces the paradox of "right doctrine" with "fluid interpretation." In teaching a Sunday School class, members take her to task for suggesting that Joshua's "sun standing still" (10:13) might have a metaphoric meaning considering an ancient translation of the word "sun."

I champion her unashamed allusions to our prominent writers: Carol Lynn Pearson, Scott Card, and Janice Kapp Perry. She also quotes Neal Maxwell. When she brings her disaffected journalist friend back into the Church, she gets a "hooray" from me. "I want to be normal," the repentant apostate says on page 111. We get an excellent picture of why dedicated membership in the Church and careful adherence to chastity and family values is the intellectual's best choice. The truth that any artist's life is a work of art in itself--and should be exemplary--is my favorite soap box topic. She also champions literary study as a viable component of our culture.

I underlined two brilliant statements, one on page 15 when she says her "lively intellectual life" is "unlike other mothers." And at the end, she effectively pinpoints the reason we should study literature: "Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's all about execution." Beth is not afraid to use the tools of resonant literature. For example, her metaphoric use of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse echoes her conception of her "pale rider" friend. Most LDS writers are writing science fiction, fantasy, romance, or young adult; perhaps because they want to sell something. This is totally understandable, as most of the Mormon audience does not read intellectual fiction. But obviously, the time for "meatier stuff" is coming!
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