In the predominantly Mormon city of Draper, Utah, some seemingly perfect families have deadly secrets.
Inspired by an actual crime and written by a practicing Mormon, The Bishop's Wife is both a fascinating look at the lives of modern Mormons and a grim and cunningly twisted mystery.
Linda Wallheim is the mother of five grown boys and the wife of a Mormon bishop. As bishop, Kurt Wallheim is the ward's designated spiritual father, and that makes Linda the ward's unofficial mother whose days are filled with comfort visits, community service, and informal counseling.
But Linda is increasingly troubled by the church's patriarchal structure and secrecy, especially as a disturbing situation takes shape in the ward. One cold winter morning, a neighbor, Jared Helm, appears on the Wallheims' doorstep with his five-year-old daughter, claiming that his wife, Carrie, disappeared in the middle of the night, leaving behind everything she owns. The circumstances surrounding Carrie's disappearance become more suspicious the more Linda learns about them, and she becomes convinced that Jared has murdered his wife and painted himself as an abandoned husband.
Kurt asks Linda not to get involved in the unfolding family saga, but she has become obsessed with Carrie's fate - and with the well-being of her vulnerable young daughter. She cannot let the matter rest until she finds out the truth. Is she wrong to go against her husband, the bishop, when her inner convictions are so strong?
I really enjoyed this book, far more than I thought I would. It is very predictable in places, and it took some time to get used to the writing style, but overall it was a good listen. The Bishop's Wife of the title is the main narrator and she tells us about life in her small Mormon community. A woman is missing, the Bishop's Wife is grieving from a lost child and throws herself into helping the child of the missing woman. I felt I learnt a lot about the Church and it only occasionally came across as preachy. Told in the first person, there is a lot of internal reflection, so the writer describes an event and this is followed by the Bishop's Wife thinking and reflecting on what that means, what she should do and what she thinks happened. This style was irritating at times, but it did allow her character to be well defined. Overall recommended easy listen.
This was a thought provoking work -well written and beautifully narrated. I found Kirsten quite soothing to listen to. Great.
Very interesting debate among the readers/reviewers. However, very few of the reviews appear to be written by men. From a male perspective, I recommend the book.
1. I learned about the Mormon faith. I'm sure that not everything is spot on. But then again, not all of the details in Tony Hillerman's early Joe Chee books were correct. Nor the details in Alexander Upfield's Napoleon Bonaparte Australian aborigine books, either. I like to learn about real things while enjoying a good book. I feel I got more than my money's worth here.
2. I learned about being a minister’s wife. Some of the reviewers argue that she was privy to too much privileged information and thus the book isn't a reflection of Mormon reality. For me, the more interesting question is broader; what is the role of a clergy's (of any faith) spouse (male or female) vis the flock? Again, The Bishop's Wife got me thinking.
3. She used tools from her faith to solve the final crisis. She used her faith to solve two important final crises, tools that would not have been available to a Miss Marple or Ms. Fletcher.
4. Not everyone has a HEA. Thank goodness not every character had a HEA, particularly one female character. For you guys, an HEA is Happily Ever After. Common stuff in romances and feel good books.
5. Makes you care about the characters. When I want to keep reading a book to find out what happens to a character, the writer has hooked me. Mrs. Harrison did this with the female who did not have an HEA. (Identifying spoilers omitted.)
6. Women staying home for families. I'm a guy. I've had a professional career. But I'm married to a woman with a professional career. IMHO, someone has to stay home or cut back for the kids. In my personal case, I'm glad I stayed home for 5 years with two young children. In the book staying home with kids is not belittled. I'm pro-family but pro-women's rights. Politically, emotionally, I didn't have a problem with the emphasis.
7. One reviewer said it is "too churchy." I did not feel preached at.
What did I not like about The Bishop's Wife?
1. A little too stereotypical characterization of the men. Several reviewers comment that most of the men seem to be misogynists. There's some truth to the observations.
2. TDTL For you guys, this abbreviation is used by some FEMALE reviewers on the internet to describe female heroines: Too Dumb To Live. It describes a woman who keeps making the same mistake(s) over and over again without learning from the experiences. Here she makes bad assumptions about most of the men (and women) repeatedly. Put another way, she jumped to conclusions based on skimpy evidence. Repeatedly.
3. Not enough jaw dropping 'oh my gosh' plot twists where we the readers anticipate bad things happening to a lead character.
4. Details that stretch Mrs. Harrison's literary license too far: It seems totally unreal that this woman could get to her age (5 sons, 4 gone from home) without a few close women friends.
Is it realistic that she got to her age without having a single female friend who suffered severe sexual abuse as a child?
As others have pointed out, carrying the trauma of a DOA child for 20 years seems ... unlikely in a woman of faith.
My disclaimer: I bought the audible version of the book; I wasn't given. free copy I'm not a writer nor in the book business nor a friend of the author. I was not asked to review The Bishop's Wife. Thus, I have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Great narration by Ms. Potter.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This book is well written and I found the explorations and description of the Mormon culture and customs fascinating.
A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with the author on NPR and was intrigue with the unusual setting of the story. This is the first adult novel by Mette Ivie Harrison, who apparently is already well known in the world of young adult fantasy romance.
Linda Wallheim, who is the title character and narrator of the book, is a 50 something mother of 5 boys and the Bishop's wife. Kurt, her husband is an accountant and the Bishop of their ward(congregation).
The book is both a mystery novel, that deals with the investigation of two murders that, at times seem pretty implausible, as well as a window into the Mormon church, its culture, doctrine, rituals and practices.
As a mystery, the story seems to stretch far longer than necessary and the way the plot(s) develop are not in my opinion, intriguing enough to consider it a "page turner".
Linda becomes very involved in the investigation over the mysterious disappearance of Kelly Helm, a young wife that is part of her ward after Kelly's husband pays Linda a visit. This is one of the two crime stories that are explored throughout the novel.
There are several characters and subplots, most of which include very chauvinistic men, that are in one way or another involved in the mistreatment, abuse, rape and even killing of women. My guess is that many Mormons, particularly men, might find the book's characterization of the male genre perhaps too one-sided.
The novel also provides lots of details into Mormon culture, traditions and rituals. These descriptions might be culturally chocking for many readers, including me. I have to acknowledge my own bias, since as a someone that was raised within a Protestant tradition, I was taught that Mormonism was a not part of what is considered "mainstream Christianity". This perception appears to be changing somehow in the last few years as more high profile Mormons become part of our culture, politics, etc. and I think this is all for the better.
Linda herself seem to acknowledge this characterization and sometimes appears to be conflicted about her faith and they way Mormons are perceived by many in our society.
I also appreciate the fact that the author allows this character to show doubts about her beliefs, and even once in a while show some sense of humor by acknowledging how odd some of these beliefs might appeared to someone outside of her church (Special Underwear alert!!). Personally I don't think this is unique to the Mormon faith and most of us can probably find "quirky" practices on any religion.
Also on the positive side, the book explores important social issues that are still so relevant today and that obviously not limited to Mormon culture, such as domestic violence, rape and anti-gay sentiments.
At times Linda can be obnoxious and very bad a reading people!, her inner dialogue through the book drove me crazy sometimes, but she is also a wonderful wife and mother, loyal friend, supportive and a generous spirit.
Linda still aches for her(stillborn) daughter and is very emotionally affected by this loss. But now that her youngest son is about to finish high school and probably leave the nest for good, she is a middle age woman looking ahead to the next chapter on her life and perhaps finally learn how to put aside this painful chapter of her life.
I noticed that the book is described as a "Linda Wallheim novel", which seems to suggest that this is the first book in the series.
I haven't made up my mind yet as to whether or not I'll give the author another try but I suggest that readers that are interested in Mysteries with a different flavor might want to give this one a try.
I should also add that Kristen Potter, the audiobook narrator did a wonderful job as usual.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I'm not a member of the LDS Church, but I was a minister's wife and the author realistically recreates the life of a woman connected to someone of stature in a church. Her questions, attitudes, and problems reflect this life very realistically. In truth, though, I ran into very few murders, but they make the book more interesting.
I especially liked the description of the process of cleaning the fellowship hall after a funeral dinner and the details necessary. This brought back memories.
I was pleased to 'read' this book and hope to see more from the author.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Good book. A little hard to get into. But once you get into the book it hooks you and you want to finish
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
If that person is a Mormon or an ex-Mormon, yes. To others only if they are interested in a "under the hood" look at modern Mormonism.
If you’ve listened to books by Mette Ivie Harrison before, how does this one compare?
This is the first book by her that I have listened to.
Which character – as performed by Kirsten Potter – was your favorite?
Do you think The Bishop's Wife needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
This book is the first of a series. Ms. Harrison will have to be more creative with her plots in order for the franchise to attract a durable fan base.
Any additional comments?
A young LDS wife goes missing, leaving behind her husband and five year old daughter. Has she been kidnapped? Down the street a respected Mormon elder dies. He leaves behind a skeleton buried in the garden. Was he a murderer? Both were members of a Mormon “ward” in Draper, Utah. Who better to solve these mysteries than Linda Wallheim, the middle-aged mother of five boys who lives in the neighborhood and is the wife of the ward’s bishop?
This is the first "adult" novel by Mett Ivie Harrison, a practicing Mormon and herself the mother of five. This is not really a murder mystery. It's about a Mormon wife who is obliged to fulfill her role as a dutiful spouse to a Mitt Romneyesque husband. He perfectly fits the stereotype of the Mormon male. He is stolid, taciturn and bland. He presides over his flock by the book. In turn, Linda's very personal god requires that she lend her husband full support even when she disagrees with him and wishes he could be less rigid and more empathetic. She must act as the informal "mother to the ward" while she chafes under the male domination that pervades the entire LDS organization. Her most memorable encounters are with egotistical, misogynistic church elders. All this as she pines for the stillborn daughter she never raised and worries that one of her sons may be gay. She has a lot on her plate besides Jello salad with marshmallows.
Linda eventually "solves" - after a fashion - these two crimes. But in the course of doing so, she lifts the lid on contemporary Mormonism. She touches on - and in many cases lightly mocks - many of the bizarre doctrines and practices of the LDS Church. Unfortunately, the two plots are weak. This is the first in a Linda Wallheim series. Ms. Harrison will need to put a lot more effort into building suspense and believability if her future efforts are to create a sustainable fan base.
As an ex-Mormon I was very interested to see what product a "faithful” female fiction author would produce, given the very tight controls that the church exercises over the thoughts and actions of its members. LDS women are to be "mothers in Zion" - raising their numerous well-scrubbed children in an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1950's TV show “Ozzie and Harriet.” LDS women are not to publicly repudiate church doctrine. One who advocates that the "sisters" should be equal with men in holding the Mormon priesthood will be given the same consideration ten renegade nuns lobbying for a woman pope would get from the Vatican. If, after warning, a dissenter persists, she will be excommunicated and sent packing - stripped of her chance to reunite with God and her family in the Celestial Kingdom after death. Plenty of incentive to stay quiet and bake cookies for the church social.
I was pleasantly surprised by Ms. Harrison's willingness to touch on many of the troubling issues that face the church, particularly its female adherents. While Mormon women will be attracted to this book, Mormon men are unlikely to read it. Those who do will complain that it "unfairly" portrays the church. But it doesn't. If anything, it trends the other way. Will Ms. Harrison get at least a good tongue lashing from the Mormon authorities for portraying the church as less than perfect? Probably not, although it has recently expelled several people whose Internet websites have been deemed unacceptable to church authorities. This book comes nowhere near meeting that level of disapprobation, although you can be sure that many church members prefer that it had not been published.
The mystery aspects of the book do not warrant the price of admission. But as a glimpse for non-Mormons into the workings of this “peculiar religion," it is worthwhile. And for ex-Mormons, it's a lot of fun. We will look forward to the subsequent adventures of Linda Willheim, a partially liberated Mormon woman.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Mette Ivie Harrison and/or Kirsten Potter?
The synopsis for this book intrigued me. But, I think it is too long and could have used a better edit in order to keep the listener's attention. I understand the need to expound on the observations regarding the church. My issue is more with the telling of the mystery part of the story. It went on too long with too much misdirection that almost caused me to lose interest.
Would you ever listen to anything by Mette Ivie Harrison again?
What aspect of Kirsten Potter’s performance would you have changed?
Could you see The Bishop's Wife being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
Lifetime movie for sure
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed the story line of this book, but found myself getting extremely frustrated with the religious aspect of the story. Bishop's wives, in reality do not have any authority to do most of the things she did, are not the "mother of the ward" and generally hold a calling. Bishops may ask their wives to accompany them on a wellness visit, but would never ask them, or any woman, to check up on a family without a woman in the home. That would be a priesthood function. The responsibility she gives her main character is more suited to the Relief Society President, not the Bishop's wife.
Good insights for nonmormons to understand misogyny and the struggles of faithful women. Heavy on god.
Loved the intimate portrayal of a Mormon wife. Much more like the Mormon women I know in terms of complexity and intelligence than is usually portrayed in the media. Also, a great story!
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would recommend this novel. It's a fast, entertaining 'read'. She well-represented the woman's perspective in Mormon culture, which is often oversimplified.
Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?
Definitely wanted to know what would happen next.
Would you listen to another book narrated by Kirsten Potter?
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
The story is creepy, but it was mostly entertaining. I would like to see if made into a film.