Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Bishop’s Wife is the most talked-about mystery of 2015. The novel gives us an insider’s perspective of The Mormon Church with a story loosely based on a true crime connected with a Utah temple, a fact which has already brought the novel considerable attention. The Bishop’s Wife also shows the author’s acute understanding of faith, family, and female position in Mormon culture and wider society.
The title character is Linda Wallheim, the mother of three grown boys and wife of a Mormon bishop in a small Utah town. One night a temple member, Jared Helm, shows up with his daughter, Kelly, in the middle of the night with a story of how his wife took off. When holes start to appear in that story, the temple and community are drawn into a plot of sex, dark obsessions, extreme beliefs, and murder that Linda finds herself in the middle of.
Harrison has created an intriguing lead with Linda. It’s her skill as mother, dealing with Kelly, that allows her to see the events from a perspective others don’t. This aspect is given emotional depth due to the fact that Linda lost her only daughter during childbirth. Harrison deftly plays with both dialogue and interior thought to portray a character who feels she can’t always speak her mind, even though she has a lot to say.
The Bishop’s Wife is a great mystery to bring in the new year. The plot engages the reader, and the story takes a very human look at as American subculture. It is definitely worth all the talk.
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