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Murder Among Friends

Our Discussion On: "The Bishop's Wife" By (and with!) Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison with The Bishop's Wife cover

Our April author, Mette Ivie Harrison fascinated the group with both her writing and her subject: what happens when crime and contemporary Mormon beliefs and practices meet. Both are featured in “The Bishop’s Wife”, our discussion book. Our first note of appreciation was for the fact that Mette even tried to Skype with us, as she was in a campus building at MIT having gone there for an event her daughter was in. Despite some fluctuation in the connection, we were so pleased to be able to ask Mette directly about the book, and some of our burning issues!

The first of these was why Tobias had the hammer next to his and Anna’s bed? As it was an on-going concern for Tobias that he be able to protect his second wife, it added to the poignancy of the facts that are revealed about the death of his first wife. In regards to that case, we were also curious about why Tobias would cover up his first wife’s death. The reasoning Mette gave us tied in very well with her larger theme of how the strong ties between family members, both positive and negative, left  the handling of the situation with a grayer solution than readers may want – but will understand.

She also gave us the story of this story – and how the real-life case of Josh and Susan Powell, served as a starting point for creating her own story. Susan Powell remains “missing” to this day. The role her controlling husband or obsessed father-in-law may have played are also unknown, and the police closed the case after Josh killed his two children and committed suicide by causing their house to explode.

Mette also helped us to better understand some of the Mormon practices, such as “sealing” – and that the concept is one that she and other Mormons grapple with too. Couples who are “sealed” are bound together for all eternity, and the rules governing the circumstances that arise from this can be complicated, and even contradictory.

We complimented Mette on the many skillful ways she weaves Mormon practices into the story without overburdening the main plot and story themes. We mentioned the scene where she uses the situation of a young couple’s non-temple wedding to share Mormon beliefs about sex before marriage. She also presents Linda’s life issues in believable ways, so that the fact that her soon-to-be empty nest and her focus on being a mother are shifting would reasonably lead her to questioning not only her role as the Bishop’s wife, but the practices she also believes should be questioned.

We completely empathized with Linda’s struggles with having lost a child, and how our society in general has overly rigid expectations of “how long” a person can reasonably be supported in dealing with such a loss. Here, it made Linda’s commitment to Kelly and Carrie completely understandable – and helped with understanding some of Linda’s more questionable, emotional actions.

The fact that this story also addresses sexual and child abuse within a Mormon community with honesty and frankness was highly admirable. This led us to also expressing our admiration of Mette’s success in completing 8 full Ironmans!

We thanked her for taking the time – especially on the road – to talk with us.

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