Alone at the airport, Howard Rockwood considers two years spent away from home. He has said good-bye to his mission president, but now his head aches. Can he fall back into the routine and expectations of his parents in Utah? Can he muster the drive to follow his instincts to figure out what he has been unable to wrap his mind around? He thinks of Allison, the young woman he met, who visits his dreams. She is educated, quick-witted the kind of "man-eating pagan" that his senile grandfather warned him about but who nonetheless makes him feel alive. If in order to find yourself you first need to become lost, then Howard is taking a first step toward self-discovery.
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John Bennion is the author of Breeding Leah and Other Stories and a contributor to Best of the West 2, Bright Angels and Familiars, and Christmas for the World. He has published in Ascent, BYU Studies, Dialogue, The New Era, Sunstone, and the Wasatch Review; and has received Best Short Story awards from the Association for Mormon Letters and the Utah Arts Council, among others. He is an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University where he teaches creative writing. He and his family live in Springville, Utah.Review:
In his recent novel, John Bennion focuses on one of the most complicated aspects of Mormon mission life: the transition from the outwardly sequestered and confining world of the mission field to the return home. The novel starts with an indecisive time in Elder Howard Rockwood's life. His wavering faith carries him through almost two years of service in the Texas Houston Mission, but in what is supposed to be his last area, he meets Allison, a computer programmer and soccer player. As a result of their chemistry, his mission president transfers him out of Houston to spend his last month elsewhere, worried that Rockwood's affections may get him into trouble. And they do get him in trouble; in the airport going home, Howard decides to pursue his feelings and returns to Allison's apartment. The characters in Falling toward Heaven carry the novel. Howard resists easy definition or categorization. On one hand, he is deeply melancholy, doubting "even his doubts of God." On the other, he is witty, engaging in coquettish banter with the more liberal Allison. The moral complexities of the situations he encounters develop from interactions with his "apostate" mother and Allison. These three characters and their intertwined relationships are the centerpiece to the novel. Of the three, however, the most complex and intriguing character is Allison. Bennion characterizes Allison as an irreverent "lone wolf" who is intent on following a job offer to work for a software company in Alaska. She leaves her intellectual, sex-therapist boyfriend Eliot and invites Howard to go with her. He concedes on the condition that she spend a few days in his hometown, Rockwood, a fictional Utah ranching community founded by his ancestors. Rockwood is also home to four of the seven tales in Bennion's earlier short-story collection, Breeding Leah and Other Stories. This scenario becomes the sounding ground for larger questions about life, love, happiness, and faith. Bennion's descriptions of the days the couple spend in Rockwood are among the funniest and most endearing from a fervent ride on a creaky chastity bed to an awkward meeting with Howard's old fiancée, to Allison's brief stint at the local speakeasy, Bennion paints a comic picture of Mormonism's foibles and fixations. But the story doesn't stop with bucolic representations of LDS idiosyncrasies. The novel explores potent issues of patriarchy, priesthood, and personal revelation in a changing church. The story is open, honest, and plain-speaking about problems and relationships and doesn't offer pat answers to probing questions. The relationships between the women in the novel prove to be the most enduring and complex, asking that we look more closely at how people communicate particularly men and women. The second half of the novel shifts its focus onto Allison and Howard's mother. The two discuss a Rockwood male propensity toward ownership and control. Rockwood's mother encourages Allison to keep Howard away from the ranch, to have a different, less traditional life. And they do. Howard follows Allison to Alaska to live with her on her own terms, and he gradually comes to accept that he can't exert dominion and control over her. But even as their relationship breaks some traditions, it upholds others. Howard and Allison feel themselves pulled toward a nuclear family in which their happiness is tied to a monogamous, interdependent relationship and a desire for children. --continued
As a whole, Falling toward Heaven is a delightful read, one that would appeal to individuals all along the spectrum from conservative to liberal. A reader looking for easy, feel-good Weyland-esque resolutions will be disappointed. But someone intent on asking larger questions about life, faith, and understanding in Mormon culture will find plenty to please the palate. Bennion's style is rich and flavorful, his dialogue and descriptions crisp and delightful. Bennion's work complicates and adds life to common "Mormon" issues; he truly pushes the envelope of several major ideological questions: how should LDS society deal with sexual abuse? Is it wrong for a woman to use the priesthood? What does it truly mean to believe? The novel's characters, whose lives reflect our own human weaknesses and problems, may not have definite answers to these questions, but they do point to some interesting possibilities. Falling toward Heaven serves up a peculiar slice of life that will resonate with any serious observer of LDS culture. --Eric Freeze, Sunstone Magazine
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Book Description Signature Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 1560851406 Brand new softcover book! ; Alone at the airport, Howard Rockwood considers two years spent away from home. He has said good-bye to his mission president, but now his head aches. Can he fall back into the routine and expectations of his parents in Utah? Can he muster the drive to follow his instincts?to figure out what he has been unable to wrap his mind around? He thinks of Allison, the young woman he met, who visits his dreams. She is educated, quick-witted?the kind of "man-eating pagan" that his senile grandfather warned him about but who nonetheless makes him feel alive. If in order to find yourself you first need to become lost, then Howard is taking a first step toward self-discovery. ; 0.86 x 8.56 x 5.56 Inches; 312 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 42471
Book Description Signature Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1560851406
Book Description Signature Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111560851406
Book Description Signature Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 1560851406 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.2124717