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Falling in Love with Joseph Smith: My Search for the Real Prophet Hardcover – August 16, 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Jane Barnes’ startling, compelling book looks for treasure, much as the young Joseph Smith did, with the passion of a convert and the wild, sharp eye of someone determined to find it in the most unlikely places. This is a beautiful and utterly original book.”

--Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak

"This is a balanced and intensely personal biography of Smith, as well as an arresting memoir of a spiritual leader."
--Publishers Weekly

“This is a book about faith and irony, but don't let the title fool you. Hold on to your hats, because you're going to be falling in love with Joseph Smith, too!”

--Dennis Covington, author of the National Book Award finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain

“Jane Barnes offers a rollicking, visionary, and deeply personal exploration of the magnetic legacy of Joseph Smith and what his story can teach us about our own deeply American hunger for transcendence.  In a moment when many Americans are realizing how little they know about Mormonism, Barnes shows us what non-Mormons can and should love about this uniquely American faith tradition.”
--Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl, associate professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature,
San Diego State University

 “Jane Barnes’ fascination with Joseph Smith is an inward journey, an account of one person's attempt to articulate and to answer difficult questions about the mysterious Joseph, a man who puzzles and eludes her. Falling in Love with Joseph Smith made me think of one of my favorite hybrid books, Annie Dillard's For the Time Being.”

--Ann Beattie, PEN/Malamud award-winning author, professor of Literature and Creative Writing, University of Virginia

About the Author

JANE BARNES, who has received fellowships from the NEA, NEH, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, has published two novels: I, Krupskaya: My Life with Lenin and Double Lives. Her essays and stories have appeared in MLLE, Mirabella, Prairie Schooner, Dialogue, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. Barnes has written documentaries for American Experience, American Masters, and Frontline. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee; FIRST PENGUIN PARSONS edition (August 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585429252
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585429257
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,580,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I say "involving" Joseph Smith because Brodie's work was a beautiful biography, whereas Barnes' book isn't a biography per se - it's more of a memoir of her involvement with Joseph Smith and Mormonism.

I've read many books about Smith over the years. Brodie's was the first to cause me to connect with Smith on a human level. Barnes was the first to emulate my own experience (the experience of connecting), even through we found out about Smith in very different ways and have a different history (Barnes never joined a Mormon sect, whereas I was LDS for thirty years, and Reform Mormon for the past ten.)

Anyone who admires Smith (but doesn't put him on a pedestal) is going to love this book. Smith has always been an interesting subject to historians, but much more so in the past fifty years. This book recounts enough history about Smith to give you the story of his life, but centers more on the impact this charismatic genius still has on people today by illustrating how one can find Smith fascinating while not finding his modern church to be palatable. Barnes is not LDS, and this books tells how she tried to become LDS, but couldn't. Regardless, her admiration for Smith is evident.

In telling her own experience with Smith, she illustrates how a person can have a love for Smith's history without becoming a modern convert. This is an interesting testament to Smith's enduring attraction. The book is human, and full of moments anyone can relate to. It's also funny and endearing. Of the many books I've read about Joseph Smith, this one stands alone as the most poignant identifier of the human interaction with his history. I recommend it highly!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a strange book in that, on the one hand, she seems to acknowledge and accept all the world's criticism of Joseph Smith and Mormonism while, at the same time, she is charmingly fascinated with Smith and easily forgives him of his many faults. Barnes even came close to converting to Mormonism but her barrier is, of all things, the idea of the atonement of Christ, not any particular Mormon doctrine. Still, the book is well written and it is refreshing to see honest respect for Joseph Smith, warts and all.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not a Mormon but I am a Mormon buff. This is the silliest damn book about Mormonism I've ever read. It is saccharin and gushing like a teenage girl's diary. Now I know why the PBS documentary written by this woman was so limp and lame. Her take on Smith is very unconvincing and reeks of presentism and projection. Make note of the books listed in this book's bibliography. Read those. Now...where did I leave my insulin...
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Format: Hardcover
A quirky and irreverent romp through modern spiritual life, blended with a historic tour of Mormonism and rumination about the LDS founding prophet. The author does not convert to Mormonism, but along the way she helped me understand why someone might want to. Although I'm fairly knowledgable about Mormon history, this was the first book that gave me a glimpse of its essence and an understanding of why it is among the world's fastest growing religions. It was also fascinating reading - I stretched it out chapter by chapter so I could let the story unfold. Worth a read if you are Mormon-curious or just looking for something different!
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By sunnydalebetty on January 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hoping for something a little better than being told Joseph Smith was charismatic. Well, obviously. You don't get all the wimmin (including 14 year old girls and your best friend's wives, and oh... Woody Allenesque relationships with your adopted daughter unless you got some charisma.)

Pretty disappointing, with no real information. It was more of a memoir of this woman's life as she came to terms with her lesbianism by embracing the founder of a religion that rallies against gays.
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Format: Hardcover
What do you get when you combine Fawn Brodie's searching assessment of Joseph Smith the man with Annie Dillard's wry but reverent embrace of divine paradox? Probably something like this exquisite memoir. Barnes is a superb storyteller and a master wordsmith, enabling her to do justice to one of the most enigmatic, enchanting religious figures who ever lived.
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Format: Hardcover
This is both a delightful read and also a difficult book to market. I want to tackle both issues and finally explain why I give Jane Barnes' memoir 5 stars.

Delightful read: Jane Barnes talks about her own spiritual walk and life and that of Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormon prophet. Growing up in a WASPy community that was predominantly Episcopalian, it seems that Jane had spiritual longings that others in her community did not understand. Through Jane and Helen Whitney discovering Joseph Smith through Fawn Brodie's biography NO MAN KNOWS MY HISTORY, the two set to do a documentary for Frontline/American Experience about the Mormon faith. This begins a path of studying the American prophet and his Book of Mormon that would start both a love affair and a conversion. However, due to a rejection of the Atonement of Christ and the LDS Church's unwillingness to accept Joseph's irreverence, Jane decides not to join the LDS Church. Later, while talking to a Mormon Fundamentalist family, Jane finds others and see this prophet the way she does. Out of all of the spiritual journey memoirs I have read, I relate most to Jane's own experience. I too admire the prophet Joseph and his works. I also appreciate the fact that Jane acknowledges the problems the LDS Church tends to brush under the rug (Nauvoo polygamy, no historical veracity to the Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham). Basically, we would be part of the same church.... if it existed.

Difficult book to market: This would be a very difficult book to market. Most of the spiritual memoirs involves a westerner in a state of existential crisis taking a pilgrimage to India to discover themselves through meditation and Eastern mysticism (On a Razor's Edge/ Eat, Pray, Love).
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