- File Size: 2653 KB
- Print Length: 242 pages
- Publication Date: November 3, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07J3X97KP
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,800,608 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Hermana Kindle Edition
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Hermana is a melodrama---but I don't mean this as a pejorative, nor do I mean to imply that its emphasis on emotional beats preempts development of character or anything else. But thinking of the novel as a melodrama I think allows us to celebrate what it does well.
And it does do things well.
Looking for something else recently I ran across Scott Hale's "Fifteen Things You Should Know Before You Try to Write Mormon Missionary Fiction" (you can google it). Scott's read a lot more missionary fiction than I have, but definitely I have read enough to know these bits of advice are accurate. I am ignorant enough, however, that I won't be able to tell if ol' Becca's followed, oh, #2: "You stand a better chance of writing a good Mormon missionary story if you take the time to read Mormon missionary fiction written by other writers first."
(#2, incidentally, is why I won't write missionary fiction. I just don't know. It's also why my opinions here may not be as informed as you might like.)
I suspect so, however. I at least have never read a missionary novel that starts with arriving in the field and ends* one year in. Which was a daring but sensible choice and provided a satisfying denouement that otherwise would have been impossible.
Although... *it actually does not end there. An additional chapter (let's call it an epilogue) picks up to bring her through her last day and her arrival at her home airport. This chapter has some beautiful writing and wraps up an ongoing metaphor in a lovely way, but I'm not sure it makes the book itself better. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. This is the sort of thing a vigorous discussion between writer and editor could have resolved in such a way that I wouldn't be bringing up the issue right now, but alas.
The lack of an editor is plain throughout this novel. 'Tis our modern plague. The prose is melody and propulsive and worthy of our good report, but small errors abound from wrong-pointing apostrophes to people with their arms full picking things up to someone whose head is already lying upon a shoulder lying a head upon a shoulder. (The reliance of heads upon shoulders also suggests more work for an editor: push the writer to find more business for characters to do.)
But these are little things. Perhaps this book will sell enough copies to justifying a Tenth Anniversary Special Edition with the addition of big lizards in the desert and the subtraction of these little goofs.
The basic arc of the story takes our hermana from the low that sends her on a mission to a realization that she is what God wants as part of his "motley army---perhaps the only kind God ever assembles" (224).
The emotional highs and crashes of the novel that led me earlier to label it melodrama largely make sense---especially considering this is narrated in first person. Perhaps a more distant narrator could have navigated our hermana's highs and lows with more gentleness, but as she is lifted to peaks and then crushed beneath them, her narration follows her feelings. Some readers will probably find that difficult, but it makes sense. (Whether first-person was the right choice is a different argument and one you are not prepared for, not having read it yet. Another example is Hermana Lewis's overuse of the work "misogyny"---inappropriate for a third-person narrator, but it makes sense in first-person and tells us a lot about how many tools she has on-hand to navigate her world.
The lyrical prose, the smart constraints on time, the honesty of emotion, and the elegant deployment of spiritual elements (an essay in itself) make this a significant entry in the Mormon-lit scene---even if it does no more than announce its author's presence and make us look forward to her next.
"Hermana" is a real missionary story. Sister Lannie Lewis is a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, laboring in the Dominican Republic. Far from her California home, she's arrived with more emotional baggage than physical. She's human: she hurts, she hopes; and she makes mistakes. Lyrical writing will pull you in and Lannie's humor will keep you turning the pages even when she falls and all she has left is her God.
Even if you aren't a member of this church, or if you are but haven't served a mission, this book will still draw you in. Lannie's devotion to her beliefs is truly commendable. "Hermana" is a great way to get an idea of what it's like to serve. Although I didn't share all of the same experiences that Lannie did, the "feel" of missionary service is found on every page.
Be ready to run the emotional gamut if you read this book. There are joyous triumphs and painful defeats, but through it all, hope blazes bright. This is a book I will read again and again. Thank you, Becca McCulloch, for writing it. It truly warmed my heart.