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Reviews (by Author)

Reviews (by Title)


Author:  Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Title: This is the Place

Publisher:  AmEricause

Reviewer: W. H. McDonald, Jr. – AAA Founder

A novel that explores growing up as a non-Mormon in Utah

There are certain issues involving our culture that you cannot question as an author without getting all kinds of hits – both positive and negative and none of them have anything what-so-ever to do with the literary merits of the story. One of those is to question or comment on some particular religious organization, even if indirectly. It takes literary courage and becomes a fine line between the art, prose and the balance of truth.

However, the truth is determined by our own personal insights as to what is correct. It almost always reflects the life long training and the belief system of your family, community and those who educated you. Very few ever really explore religions outside their own youthful indoctrinations into whatever cultural and religious heritage we were born into. So, when author Carolyn Howard-Johnson writes a book based on her alienation from the surrounding culture of Mormonism in Utah she is bound to open herself up as a target.

Carolyn’s book title is taken from a quote of LDS leader Brigham Young when he looked out over Salt Lake City and proclaimed “This is the Place.” Contrary to some reviews I had read about her book, I found that there was no attempt to attack any organization. She deals with people in her book and it is the actions and views of her characters that become the focus of the issues in her story. However, the culture she writes about is a collective thought and action process of a group. She writes about her lead character having to deal with life as a non-Mormon in a state where this is the primary social driving force. The premise seems to be that no matter what you do or achieve as a non-member of this cultural you will always remain feeling like you are on the outside or at least separated in some social way.

Carolyn uses her lead character to bring out the past as she explores her family genealogy. We discover how a group of early founders escaped from the bigotry and persecutions of other places. They came to Utah to build a place where they would not endure such things again. In her book, it seems that the former persecuted become intolerant of outsiders over time. Maybe not in brutal ways like blacks had in the south but at least socially there was a division between the non-believers and those of the LDS church.

When reading her book one gets the feeling that her story seems almost personal and autobiographical. It feels like we are following along in a memoir of someone exploring their family and themselves, looking for their roots and meaning. It is well written and the prose is top notch stuff. It flows with energy as it almost dances through the pages. Her characters are all alive with depth and animation. This was her first novel but it feels like classic a piece of literature – like many other great first novels of our time.

This book will continue to be controversial but hopefully in a healing way. I get the feeling that the author is trying to throw a mirror out there for people to look into for discovering there own roots. I think the author obviously has great writing skills and talents. I hope people read this story with both an open mind and heart so that they can fully enjoy the actual story she has created.

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