January 26, 2012
My Mormon Life by James Sanbourne
I've been greatly interested in many of the books on the FLDS, which some would argue is not actually Mormon, but to my belief, they are very similar. This book, while not FLDS, is still the tale of a boy raised in the Mormon belief, and questions it. I liked several aspects of the book, but there were a few things that I would have preferred to see differently.
James Sanbourne was born into a Mormon household, and while he isn't considered a Mormon until he is old enough to make the choice of baptism, it is all he knows. He's grown up with the stories from the bible and the Book of Mormon and they are greatly encouraged while other books, like comic books, are discouraged. An inquisitive child, his belief doesn't really waver, but he has tons of questions about the Mormon faith and some of its trickier laws and beliefs. As he grows up, an abusive mother, and uncaring father make life even more difficult. They move quite frequently and nothing ever seems to be stable in Sanbourne's life. So its no surprise when he starts running away and disobeying the Mormon laws. His community believes he is headed down the right path, and even law officials make it difficult for him to escape his family, but he continues to question his faith. Even if it does mean potential lockup and misery for him.
Sanbourne is very realistic when he describes himself and his family. He doesn't pull punches when he describes his mother especially. And she seems like a very sad, pitiful woman who possibly has some mental issues. I can't imagine how tough it would have been to grow up in a household like that, especially since his father was distant at best too. He had some siblings, but there's not too much mention of them in this book. Since it is about his life, the main "character" is Sanbourne himself, and he takes a lot of time to describe how he felt growing up and why he did the things he did. It helps to create a honest and realistic experience for the reader. I do have to say, I would have liked to hear about how his siblings reacted to what he did or what their beliefs were growing up in the same household, it would have provided some nice contrast. But no one ever experiences the same things even if circumstances are the same.
The book moved fast, very fast. I actually would have appreciated a lot more detail on some of the different aspects of Mormon life and belief. For example, the magic underwear. We are given glimpses of this practice but not enough to provide a true understanding. It only teased actually. The author's issues with racism in the faith though, was actually well described. That's the level I would have liked to see with the other topics in the subtitle (A Boy's Struggle with Polygamy, Magic Underwear, and Racism). The tone of the novel is actually very young sounding. It made reading about the author's childhood very believable since it seemed to be told in that tone. But to that note, like a young person when excited, it could ramble sometimes. Like a stream of thought that just had to be let out. For those not familiar with Mormonism or actually the Bible in general there is a lot of base description of certain stories from the bible. Depending on your audience, this could be a good or bad thing. In a predominantly Christian country, such as the US, the detail in this area might not be as important as added detail specific to the Mormon faith would be.
Because this book is heavily focused on religion, it has the potential to offend. But I don't think Sanbourne actually intends to offend anyone, its just inevitable when someone talks about religion. So reader, you have been warned, come to this book with an acceptance of another person's experience with their faith. There also is a lot of talk about racism, but it is clear the author is against racism and that it factored a lot in his decision regarding religion.
I liked the book, but I thought it could have been paced better and the description focused on different things than it did. As a self publisher, Sanbourne has done a good job though and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Mormon religion.
My Mormon Life