Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Love Triangle of Mountains Between Us

Jenny Proctor’s new novel Mountains Between Us, tells the story of a love triangle—Henry, Eliza, and Flip—and the struggles that they individually experience while trying to have it all. Unlike the LDS literature that our class has read to date, Mountains Between Us is primarily designed for an adult audience, and it could be adequately classified as a “romance novel.”
          Proctor’s characters are introspective and easily frustrated. Henry is a high school English teacher recovering from a divorce (and estrangement from his biological father), and he channels his energy into writing a novel he won’t let anyone read, and ignoring his pre-teen son, AJ. Eliza is a 20 year old social worker laden with a family history of alcoholism and grief. The two come together in North Carolina, where they both work at the same rehabilitation center, and where they attend the same LDS ward.
          Henry and Eliza are the heroes of the novel; as is sometimes the case with romantic love triangles, their third counterpart, Flip, is an undeveloped character who exists solely to give Eliza and Henry something else to worry about. Interestingly enough, Proctor makes Flip the non-Mormon. He initially attends church only out of interest for Eliza, though he soon begins to take the discussions from the missionaries, out of what appears to be a sincere, self-driven interest in their message.

          Proctor’s novel, like Douglas Thayer’s Will Wonders Never Cease, is explicitly LDS, and would doubtless confuse a reader unfamiliar with the faith. Still, like Thayer, and like Orson Scott Card and Luisa Perkins, Proctor makes an admirable attempt at conveying Mormonistic hope in a small work of fiction. Many of the novel’s conflicts that seem beyond repair somehow manage to work out in the end, and while Edith Wharton would decry the novel as impossible and underthought, a novice reader make take some solace in Proctor’s work, finding in Henry and Eliza’s example the courage to continue forward, to face fears head-on regardless of anxiety.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this may be an under-thought novel. But I have to admit that most of the conflicts weren't solved as completely or easily as I'd expected from an LDS romance. I mean, it realistically takes a couple tries for Eliza's sister to finally get professional help. Henry never does get to have a civil conversation with his birth father. Eliza screws up big time with her student. So the fact that other problems were solved suspiciously easily (like how well Flip took Eliza's rejection, for instance) didn't bother me TOO much.