Alma J. Yates
Deseret Book , 1995.
Aaron Solinski, just recovering from a broken engagement with the beautiful, sophisticated Brittany, turns down a prestigious summer job as a clerk at a law-firm to drive truck for a highway construction crew based in Bear River City, UT. There he is able to be near his sister, who is going through an ugly divorce. He meets the tom-boyish though beautiful Nick Jerard and begins a summer romance. Along with the romance he gets lessons in charity and forgiveness as he comes across his father who abandoned him many years before and who is apparently dying of AIDS.
Nick is a typical popular Mormon novel offering nothing new or laudable to the library of Mormon fiction. It follows the formula perfectly: handsome LDS return missionary turned law school student meets a beautiful, fiesty farm girl and, after the proper amount of romance, misunderstanding, and making up, fall in love. The male is perfect:
He is handsome in a different sort of way--
His dark eyes teased from a sunburned face. His jaw was a bit square and showed the bluish hue of a heavy beard. Though he wasn't classically good-looking, he had thick, dark hair and a handsomeness that reminded her why she had been so attracted to him.
His priorities are straight--
I had an offer to clerk for one of the big law firms in Scottsdale. It's a pretty prestigious place. .& .& . But I've decided not to take it. .& .& . I'm going to spend the summer in Bear River City.& .& . . My sister Regina and her kids live there.
(He feels his sister may need his help since she is going through a messy divorce.)
He is completely orthodox in the way he thinks and feels:
Sometimes I even dream of returning to Peru and teaching English down there. Ever since my mission, I've wanted to go back. .& .& . I loved Peru. I loved the people.
And Nick is, I'll venture to say, many a young Mormon boy's dream girl. The following quote comes just after Nick had give her brothers the ride of their life (they are in the back of the semi-trailor on top of a load of hay) and they have complained about her driving. brothers complain about herdriving:
She was just under five-feet-nine with her scuffed and battered boots on, but even though she was dressed more like a cowboy than a young lady, the jeans, the flannel shirt with the rolled-up-sleeves, and the boots didn't disguise her beauty. She glared up defiantly at her three brothers. Her hands were on her hips and her brown eyes flashed angrily.
So Alma gives us two beautiful, young, active Mormons to titillate our fantasies about falling in love. He does create the stereotypes well, though. I found myself falling in love with Nick, just like Aaron. That is the power of stereotypes and sentimentalism -- great seduction, no fulfillment. Nick has a lot of what many Mormon men dream of except substance (I'm not sure Mormon men dream of that or not). There is nothing about Nick or Aaron to discuss when finished with the book. I think that is a mark of most popular Mormon fiction (nothing to discuss afterward).
In Nick Alma throws in the theme of forgiveness to mix up the romancea little. Aaron's sister is divorcing her husband because he has been unfaithful (they are LDS and were married in the temple). Aaron is disgusted with the husband and wants his sister to have nothing to do with him. However, the sister decides to give the husband another chance. Aaron has to deal with his feelings of hate for the husband while accepting that giving people another chance is a Christ-like quality. This could be an extremely interesting theme in a novel, however Alma never develops it more than a standard Sunday School lesson on forgiveness. I must note, though, that Alma does not have Aaron and his brother-in-law making up in tears. At the end of the book, Aaron still does not like his brother-in-law (the book is pushing the edge here).
Another possibly interesting plot thread is Aaron coming in contact with his father after years of separation. His father abandoned Aaron and his family to go live a more "exciting" life. Aaron "accidentally" runs into his father one day and finds himself face-to-face with his feelings of disappointment and disgust. His father seems to be living a quiet peaceful life now. It is never said, but he apparently has AIDS. Alma gets much more sentimental in this part of the story. The real possibilities never flower (never even sprout) and we end up with nothing more than a hollow "faith promoting" story.
Although in the same class, Nick is a much better book than the last book I reviewed (Two Roads). Alma bases his book on stereotypes and sentimentalism, but he practices some restraint and that, mixed with his competent narrative and dialog skill, makes the book readable. But if you are looking for something to expand your life a little, this book doesn't do it. The topics are there, but Alma does not follow them through: A. because he doesn't have the ability, B. because the popular Mormon market wouldn't stand for such book, or C. because "popular Mormons" have their eyes closed to the intracacies and complexities of their own lives and thus believe they do not exist.
© 1995 Tory Anderson