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The Backslider Paperback – November 1, 1990

9 customer reviews

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Paperback, November 1, 1990
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Editorial Reviews


"Provocative, entertaining, illuminating ... and deeply gratifying." -- Dialogue

From the Inside Flap

 From the jacket flap
Even before he began to write, Levi S. Peterson “knew that Mormons would be my subject matter. I was an instinctive realist. I wanted to write about people as they really are, and Mormons were the only people I knew from inside out. Moreover, the conflicts I wanted to write about were between belief and disbelief and between sexual impulse and conscience. I found those conflicts in myself, and I detected them among people I knew. So it wasn’t hard to attribute them to fictional Mormons.”
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books; 2 edition (November 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560850159
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560850151
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,793,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a legitimate contender for the title of "The Great Mormon Novel" (if there is such a thing.) It's a comedy of the most profound order. A young LDS cowboy in the 1950's wrestles with guilt, especially that of a sexual nature, although ironically he has very little to feel guilty about. His struggles lead him to one of the great epiphanies of recent fiction--the "Cowboy Jesus." Some Mormon critics see this figure as blasphemous; other see him as quintessentially LDS (I think this scene is one of the most touching things I have ever read.) This novel established Peterson as one of the foremost Mormon writers, and one of the most shamefully neglected American fiction authors. He should be at least as famous as any yuppie Montana writer.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Isaac Cohen on August 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Backslider is not a light temptation story with a hero who gives in at first and then repents with complete success. Rather, like many great works, it presents a hero who succumbs, first denies his actions to himsef and others, and then repents, only to succumb again. The Blackslider tells the story of a simple, well-meaning Mormon cowboy who can barely keep his pants on and head together. Neither very attracted nor committed to his Lutheran girlfriend, he finds himself well on the way to marriage and all sorts of other obligations to her. Meanwhile, his family encounters much hardship with a brother and his mental illness.
The novel's themes of temptation, redemption, religious hypocrisy and cultural pressures are convincing. Neither preachy nor prim in description, the Backslider has an earthy quality that draws the reader in.
Probably a racy story for the average Mormon reader, the Backslider is also somewhat disappointing for the non-Mormon reader as the conclusion includes a seemingly obligatory conversion, thus maintaining the traditional and official Mormon worldview in an otherwise spirited and intrepid narrative. Sigh. But given that this is the premise of the book anyway, and given that the conversion comes across as sympathetic, general readers might do best to suspend judgment on that front and appreciate the book's ultimate visions of faith and love, which are original and very moving indeed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By susannah eanes on December 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
i love this book, it is one of my favorite novels of all time. because of the regional emphasis i believe it has been vastly overlooked by mainstream america, but if more people were aware of it, it would be a bestseller. honestly.

although it is a book about a young man coming of age in the mormon world, it isn't what you think. it explores the basic tenets of faith in a very gnostic way. i am one of those people who actually believes mormonism should probably be classified as a cult rather than a religion, and yet i still believe the struggles of this man to find his faith mirror those of any searcher who is looking for authentic truth in christianity itself.

powerful characters, timeless wisdom, honest passion, and hey, it's even uproariously funny in places.

no spoilers for me, just read the book. you'll be glad you did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Warning: spoilers.
The main theme is the battle btw the hero's apocalyptic and world-denying religious impulse and his love of living, sex, work and cows. The first is associated with his vegetarian mother, a bitter lady, and his gentle effeminate brother who ultimately (after helping out gelding cattle) goes nuts and castrates himself. The second is associated with some of the worldly Mormons like his down-to-earth bishop, and with the teenage girl he knocks up and marries, a country-music-rodeo evangelical who dreams of a cowboy Jesus.
This main theme is simplistic -- especially toward the end as the resolution becomes predictable -- which I guess is why a novel like this is not seen as a great novel. But the major and minor characters are unusually interesting and are embedded in a rich social context. (You learn a lot about Utah society without any didactic passages.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Scott G. Kenney on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Disclosure: As Signature Books' publisher (1981--1984)when Backslider was issued, perhaps I'm not entitled to an opinion (my apologies for stumbling if so). Peterson is the premier author of Mormon literature (with Orson Scott Card in his own distinctive way), and this his best-known and highly-acclaimed work. A classic of the Mormon backwater, Backslider deserves of a wider audience. Irreverent, earthy, grace-filled and redemptive. *****
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