||Jan 1 2000
A novel set in Utah in the 50s, "This Is The Place" is a love story that reveals mysteries of the heart as well as the secrets of what some consider a mysterious place and culture.
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This is the Place
Come to "This Is The Place." Meet Skylar Eccles, a half-breed--which in Utah where she was born and raised--means she is one-half Mormon and one-half any other religion. Skylar is considering marrying a Mormon man in spite of her internal longing for a career. By confronting her own history--several generations of women who entered into mixed marriages--and by experiencing a series of devastating events finds her own true North. AmErica House Editor, Christen Beckmann, says, "The characters in "This Is the Place" will stay with you long after you have read the last page."
Endorsement from the Library Journal: "Howard-Johnson strengthens her novel with behind-the-scenes details of Mormon life and history in a book suitable for all collections, particularly those where . . . Orson Scott Card's religious books are popular" ~ Library Journal
"The Place--the house and land--was in Sky's soul, both sweet and scary, like a sugar apple with a dark spot in its core."
This is the Place--An Important Book
By Rolf Gompertz,
UCLA professor and author.
Permission is given to reprint in full.
Originally appeared at KnowYourAuthor.com
"This is the Place" is a magnificent book and Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a magnificent writer. Her book is a joy to read. It is a work of literary art. It is an important book. It is a book that touches the heart, mind, and soul.
"This is the Place" is about 19-year-old Skylar Harriet Eccles – Sky –trying to figure out who she is, what she wants to be, and where she belongs. It is about marriage and domesticity, Mormon-style, and about young Archer Benson, who loves Sky and wants to marry her. It is about Utah, 1959, and the Salt Lake Valley, where Brigham Young declared, “This is the place,” and settled his persecuted flock some hundred years earlier. It is about three living generations of Sky’s family, whose men are Mormons, with one a direct descendant of The Church’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith. It is about Sky’s Protestant mother, who would not convert, and Sky’s grandmother and great grandmother, who did.
Sky puts it all in a nutshell when she asks, at one point, “So why…can’t I just do what I want? Do I have to be so adaptable because every woman in my entire life is? Is that what’s required?”
Seeking to calm her down, her aunt Neesha, who is only a few years older, suggests, “If the great mystery of life is who we are, you and I are not going to find it today.”
“Probably not,” Sky agrees, but wonders “what we would do with ourselves if we actually found out.”
The book opens with a story about a piano, which belongs to Sky’s grandmother, Harriet Skylar Eccles, “Gram Harry.” The instrument symbolizes the promising musical career, and independence, she abandoned when she chose to marry and become a Mormon.
Gram Harry tries to keep Sky in line when she sees her granddaughter going to work for the liberal Salt Lake City Tribune.
“You have musical talent,” the grandmother tells Sky. “Music runs in your veins.”
Resisting the pull of the lifestyle her grandmother had chosen, asserting herself, Sky replies: “Try to understand. Words are my music. You love the notes, I love the lyrics.”
Howard-Johnson’s words, indeed, are her music. She writes with journalistic clarity and poetic beauty and power. Her writing is especially rich in delightful, enlightening similes, which appear unexpectedly, like refreshing, hidden springs.
"Material verve followed her like the aura of expensive perfume.” (p. 33)
"The night was heavy and the moon was gray, washed with clouds like mottled oatmeal.” (p. 162)
"Sky didn’t tell her (Stella) that (her eyes) were melancholy pools, like twin mountain lakes at dusk.” (p. 95)
‘There was no difficulty for him in choosing her, dainty as a blossom of bleeding heart, skin as soft as butterfly wings.” (p. 133)
“Big raindrops started to clap, like scattered applause, across the driveway and sidewalk.” (p. 170)
Howard-Johnson knows the people and places intimately and captures the inner and outer worlds with subtle, startling and telling detail.
The author has found a deceptively simple, intriguing way of telling her multi-generational story. Each chapter is devoted to one or two individuals, allowing the reader to get to know them and their relationship to Sky, moving the plot along in the process.
We read about Sky Eccles, Harriet Skylar Eccles, Sky and Archer, Harriet and Brock, Sky and Stella, among others.
We also read about places – Sky’s Place, Harriet’s Place, and The Place – The Salt Lake Valley and Salt Lake City.
The chapter subheadings suggest the point and plot direction: The Search, Soul Music, Identity, Intolerance, Discovery, Proposal, Love Story, Finding Yourself, Inclusion, Exclusion, Rejection, Healing, Self-Denial, Consolation, Destination, Sacrifice, Premonition, Perspective, Loss and The Lesson.
The author cares about each of her characters and makes us care.
What makes this book important is that it is not just about particular individuals, and a particular place and time, but that it is about timeless and universal types and issues.
Sky observes the many forms of prejudice and cruelty. After one family gathering, she confides in her aunt: “You know it isn’t just our family, Neesha. One side is as bad as the other. Neither side ever gets it. People who have suffered persecution can turn it on others with a terrible benevolence. It becomes a cycle that builds in intensity. It never wears itself out.”
The book is about how the persecuted become the persecutors; how those who have suffered from bigotry and prejudice become bigoted and prejudiced. It is about “us” and “them,” about inclusion and exclusion, about the comforts and benefits of belonging – and the price of belonging. It is about the family or the group imposing its will on the individual. It is about the individual vs. the group, and the liberation, survival and freedom of each.
If these themes resonate with you, any time, any place, then this is the time, the place and the book – for you.
(Reviewed by Rolf Gompertz, author of
“Abraham, the Dreamer: An Erotic and Sacred Love Story.”
Available at: www.amazon.com.)
This is the Place-A Moment in Time
By Judith Woolcock Colombo
A Japanese fan, lying on a table, is a simple unassuming object. However, in the hands of a dancer it pivots and twirls, opening gradually or with a flick of a wrist to reveal itself as a work of art, a kaleidoscope of color and movement. As the dance develops the fan becomes more than an object in the hands of an artist. It is a gateway into a world both frightening in its strangeness and comforting in its familiarity.
"This Is The Place," Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s excellent first novel, unfurls as the fan does developing from a simple coming of age story, filled with the music of everyday life, into a powerful novel about the search for individuality and the struggle against prejudice.
Skylar Eccles is the hero. The daughter of a Mormon father and a Protestant mother, she must struggle against the demands and prejudices of both sides of her family that demand that she confirms to their religious views. She must also struggle against the constraints placed on members of her sex in 1950’s Utah, that sent the message that “only in marriage would a woman be a complete entity.” Even the love of a good man and the love of her family threatened to destroy her selfhood through the obstacles placed in her path in their attempts to mold and shape her into good wife, obedient daughter, and a child of the faith. “…Sky looked at her own life and saw the awful power of love hovering ready to shape-maybe destroy –her own reality.”
The pain of intolerance and the fight against bigotry is reflected in the lives of Skylar’s great-grandmother Crystal and grandmother Harriet, who both gave up their more comfortable religions to embrace the harsher rules of Mormonism, in order to be with the men they loved. It is also mirrored in the life of Skylar’s mother Stella, who refuses to relinquish her own faith.
Beneath all this emerges another story. It is the story of Utah, the fifth woman in this tale. Utah is the mother, loving, comforting, and judgmental. Enfolding these women in her arms, she shapes and forms them in her own image, strong and glorious in her harsh, uncompromising beauty that demands respect and honor from her sons and daughters.
Howard –Johnson speaks in reverence of the land whether it’s the family’s private house and land imprinted in Sky’s soul “both sweet and scary like a sugar apple with a dark spot in its core” or Utah itself, who “chained her with its beauty and with the calls of her ancestors because her feet were grounded in its clay.”
Howard-Johnson’s language is vivid and vibrant, pulsating with the music and beauty of the land she describes, burnt sienna, pumpkin and amber. Her words, like the music that pours from grandma Harriet’s piano, ties our souls to “the rhythm of life in Utah’s Mormon community.”
But, it is Howard-Johnson’s power as a story teller that holds the readers enthralled bringing to life characters that spoke directly to us of their hopes and joys. She not only held my interest until the end, but she made me fall in love with Utah a land whose harsh and vivid beauty effects the lives not only of the people who live there but also impacts those who merely visit it at one moment in time in the pages of a book.
The Mysterious Land of the Mormons: As Told by an Insider
Reviewed by Kristie Leigh Maguire,
author of Emails from the Edge
Carolyn Howard-Johnson tells it like it 'was' in her novel, THIS IS THE PLACE. The setting for this novel is Utah in the early fifties.
Carolyn provides the reader a rare glimpse inside the mysterious Mormon society as few outsiders ever have the chance to see it.
"Neesha had once felt an urge in her bones--in her very hide--that had never overcome the nurtured, puritanical core of her brain. She had lost the object of her lust to her need to conform to society's expectation for nice women. Confusion reigned. In her head she knew the 50's mantra that a man won't buy the cow if he's getting the milk free. The Kinsey reports from 1953 chronicling the modern sexual habits of women had floated right over Utah like cirrostratus clouds, elongated and pointing somewhere else. In the heat of her sexuality Neesha only knew that she had wanted him."
Carolyn Howard-Johnson has always dreamed of writing that great American novel. She has succeeded with THIS IS THE PLACE. Another great American novel, GONE WITH THE WIND, gave us a glimpse inside the lives and times of the people in the mysterious land of the antebellum South.
THIS IS THE PLACE, gives us a glimpse inside the lives and times of the Mormons in the mysterious land of Utah in the fifties.
THIS IS THE PLACE gets 5 Stars from this reviewer. Put it on your list of ‘must reads’.
Kristie Leigh Maguire
Author of Desert Triangle,
The 1st novel in the trilogy, The Marcie Series
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Reader Reviews for "This Is The Place, By Award-Winning Author Carolyn Howard-Johnson"
|Reviewed by Marcyle Taliaferro
|A timely and much-needed message. Am anxious to read the story. Best success, Carolyn.
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|enjoyed the excerpt|
|Reviewed by email@example.com
|mormons are a hateful cult|
|Reviewed by Evelyn Horan
|Appealing, sensitive simile. Interesting plot line. Talented writer with insight into an unexplored theme many would like to know more about. Good luck and much success!|