Doug Thayer’s new book, Will Wonders Never Cease: A Hopeful Novel for Mormon Mothers and Their Teenage Sons, tells the story of Kyle Hooper, a go-with-the-flow teenager with a penchant for writing and a remarkably lucid sense of self. The book is a modern retelling of the story of Alma the Younger, as Kyle is struck by an avalanche (just as Alma is struck by an angel) and as his confrontation with despair causes him to contemplate his life choices.
Thayer's book exhibits a profoundly Mormon anxiety on every page: the question, “How do I get my kid to choose the right?” and its haunting shadow, “If my kid chooses the wrong, is it my fault?” Through Kyle’s inner monologue, the reader meets Kyle’s mother, Lucille, a woman who clearly wants her son to live righteously, but who parents him in a non-traditional, laissez-faire way, using sarcasm and candor where Victorian parents would probably use restraint and subtext.
Does this book teach “the right way to parent”? Lucille seems at first to be the master parent, but Kyle’s narrative quickly shows that she is haphazard and frantic, probably doing parenting by the seat of her pants, and much less self-possessed than she appears. Moreover, the subtitle of the novel is not “How Mormon Mothers Should Teach Their Teenage Sons” but “A Hopeful Novel,” which suggests that this is only meant to be an example of parenting working out, not a paragon of how it has to happen.
What I find more interesting is the subtextual moral of this book, which is that human beings need to have avalanches dropped on them before they take anything seriously. Are we really that obtuse that we can’t actually choose righteousness until death is right in front of us? I would take offense at this, except that I was exactly the same way when I was a teenager, and honestly, am often just as oblivious now. If there is anything positive to get out of this book, I think it must be this message: Wake up, and don’t make God send you an avalanche before you get smart about life.