Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Introducing "The Jello Belt"

No, this is not a post about some new exercise fad, or some odd choice of clothing. This is about an online friend of mine (she goes by "Janey" in the forums I frequent, I'll let her out herself if she wants to be outed ;) ), and her unique experiment with writing an online novel, geared towards an LDS audience, while deliberately steering clear of the many pitfalls and foibles associated with "LDS Literature".

To that end, may I introduce you to The Jello Belt: A Mormon Blog Novel.

To read in Order, go back to the earliest post and start with Chapter 1, then follow on with each successive post after that. Don't be surprised if you spend a whole day getting caught up.

This is the "book" back blurb:

  • Tracy Nesbitt has been running away for years, hiding in low self-esteem and junk food. If she doesn't find the courage to face her past, she risks ruining her relationship with her daughter.
  • Carly Simmons is the perfect Mormon. She has to be or she can't be happy. And to prove her worth, all her children are perfect. Except her oldest daughter, Danna. Only Danna stands between Carly and perfection, and Carly isn't about to let anyone stand in her way.
  • Nicole Benton is living an ordinary Mormon life. She's got a loving husband, and two healthy boys, until one day one of them isn't.
  • Amanda Grayson walked away from Mormonism years ago, right into the arms of the best husband a woman could want. But Mormonism puts down deep roots, and when Amanda feels the pull to return, she faces a husband who doesn't want her to go back.
  • Maria Anderson glided through life, smoothing away the rough edges, until a priesthood blessing persuaded her to be honest. As honesty peels away years' worth of facade, Maria faces a truth that will blow her family apart.

    Join the families of the Juniper Bend Ward as they grapple with the things no one talks about, and find their faith in the events that threaten to destroy them.

If you think this sounds like "Relief Society Desperate Housewives" or "The Real Housewives of Draper, UT", well, you're on to something there, but to say that that's what it is is to be correct and to miss the mark entirely. While the title may sound cutesy, what Janey covers here is anything but. This is a slice of "Mormondom" from the vantage point of an insider, and one who shows that "Molly Mormon's" and "Matthew Missionary's", while a common stereotype, are not really accurate. Latter-day Saints are a complex mix of people, even in what many may consider a very homogeneous Utah (and hey, that's where Janey happens to live, so it's going to be based on her areas of expertise and knowledge, plus she shows that Utah isn't quite as jhomogeneous as we all might want to think ;) ).

Still, the characters that she describes are real, their issues are real, and they are the issues that many of us have faced. While the stories revolve around the women, the men in their lives are just as real and as fleshed out. We know these people, they are familiar to us, we see them every week, and quite frankly, several of them are us (and one of the characters, Danna, is *me*, or at least, she is me when I was 15 years old, were I a teenage girl... where was I going with this (LOL!)?). Seriously, the characterization is rich, the people feel very real to us, and one of the things I like about Janey's portrayal is that she doesn't overdo the descriptions of the characters; she lets us fill in the blanks, and what happens is that we feel like we are reading about our friends, our ward members, and the challenges they face are our challenges, and in some ways, my challenges.

This is a great story, and it's a great return to the "days of Dumas"... if you ever wondered what it felt like to read a "book" in serial format,well, here's your chance. If you are a member, you'll find a lot to like in here. If you are not a member, some of the comments may feel like they are in code, but there is still a lot to like in here. More to the point, if you ever thought that "Mormons" were all alike, I think it's safe to say that this will help remove that feeling and you just may understand how unique and different we are when it comes to life and its experiences. We all have a common goal and a common focus, but how we get there and the challenges we face are as unique as each one of us is.

Come on, Janey, publish some more chapters now, please :).

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