I like books. Well-written books, which generally excludes most YA (sorry, everybody). I edit literary fiction in my spare time, and I eat up books with great prose and no pretentiousness. I also love good speculative fiction and frequently read classics.
Surprisingly enough, this book was actually my first foray into Mormon literature. I mean, I've read Brandon Sanderson, but he didn't really address questions of LDS faith or culture in his books. (Except for the very end of Hero of Ages, when it's Mormon cosmology like crazy. But anyway.) Though I went in hesitant about how Young would treat her faith in this novel, I actually thought it was handled beautifully for the most part.
The story: Middle-aged Ben meets a hippie-spiritualist woman named Cody in Zion National Park, who convinces him that she can use her ability to read people and sense others to help Ben's wife, Merry, who is in the last stages of terminal multiple sclerosis. When Cody enters Ben's house, we see the tensions that surround Merry, her MS, and her slow dwindling over the years. Her teenage daughters love their mother but, despite Merry's yearnings to be one, don't have much of a mother figure. Ben loves his wife but has grown weary of the constant care she requires. And Merry, in full posession of her mental faculties, has to watch the tension around her--the tension that springs from her. Cody helps the family interpret Merry's feelings about the situations as they try to work through the major issues in their lives.
Overall, the writing was exactly what the story needed it to be: gorgeous and heart-breaking, but never verging into schmaltzy. And though I knew how the story must end, I still wept copiously during Merry's last scene. Though this volume is thin, it makes great use of its simple and powerful prose to really help you understand the effect that a disease like MS can have on a family.
I have two small complaints about this book: the first is that in a few scenes, Cody got too weird and unbelievable as she was trying to help Ben through his sexual needs that weren't being met. She overstepped her bounds in a way that left me more creeped out and turned off from the story than concerned about the characters that were Cody's way. My second small complaint is that the end seemed to be grasping for significance but not quite achieving it. Yes, it makes use of a symbol that had been set up artfully through the rest of the story, but it didn't feel quite whole enough to be a completely satisfying ending image.
Despite these small issues, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read Mormon literature or literature about disability. It's a quick read, and it's more powerful than you might expect.