If you’re looking for 300 pages of gooey prose about two Mormons falling in love, then Mountains Between Us is not for you. This novel by LDS writer Jenny Proctor focuses on more than romance and growing testimonies.
English teacher Henry is a (bitterly) divorced father of a seven-year-old boy trying to stay involved with his son and escape his pain. He’s also dealing with complicated feelings about his birth father, a criminal who’d given Henry up to be adopted by Henry’s stepfather decades before. Eliza is a Masters degree-holding counselor. She has a newly-rebuilt relationship with her mother and spends much of the novel worrying about her alcoholic older sister. Henry and Eliza end up working at the same boarding school (for troubled teenagers) and are drawn to each other almost immediately. Mountains Between Us documents their professional, personal, and relationship challenges.
One reason this book caught my interest was because of how well I could relate to the setting. Before my mission, I spent about six months working at a behavioral health center with kids from the ages of five to fifteen. We even took most of the kids on a campout at the end of the summer. So, even though I wasn’t an English teacher or therapist, I felt I had a lot in common with Henry and Eliza because of their employment at Rockbridge Academy. I thought Proctor did a great job depicting two kids—one of Henry’s students and one of Eliza’s—and their issues in some depth. However, I’d expected and hoped to hear more details about Henry’s and Eliza’s daily work and some of the other kids. I realize that Proctor was worried about keeping her word count down and that the kids weren’t meant to be the primary focus of the book. But I think she could’ve put a unique spin on the classic LDS romance by spending more time and words on Rockbridge Academy.
That being said, I was grateful that this book deviated from the classic LDS romance in that it focused less on the love interest than most. Proctor took the time to explore Henry’s and Eliza’s respective family relations, inner conflicts, and professional lives, creating a greater sense of balance than I’d experienced in many other LDS romances.
Overall, I found Mountains Between Us to be well-written, decently unconventional, and realistic. I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to recommend it to LDS readers, but I did enjoy it.
And it gets bonus points for mentioning The Book Thief and Peace Like a River.