Title: Vernal Promises
Author: Jack Harrell
Jack Harrell's Vernal Promises focuses on the Mormons I don't see much in my ward on Sunday. Or maybe I focus so much on the people who look like me and went to school at the same places I did that I just don't notice them. Harrell's main characters, Jacob and Pam Dennison meet at a keg party outside of Vernal and get married a few months later. When the book opens, they've been married about six months and they're both working dead-end jobs (him at the grocery store and her at the cable company) and living in a trailer park, when Pam has a miscarriage. After the miscarriage, they decide to return to activity in the Church, which Jacob finds stifling and boring, so he beats a retreat from all of the responsibilities of his life. While I didn't really like the climax of the book, I felt like it showed an interesting insight into Jacob and Pam and the working-class residents of Vernal. For me, my faith has always been a quiet constant, but for Jacob, it brings him to highs and lows that are a little bit hard for me to understand and identify with, and I wonder how much of his retreat from his family and the Church stems from the way he feels trapped by the economic and social realities of his life. I felt like Harrell focused a lot more on Jacob than on Pam, although her story of wanting to reactivate after her marriage was also really interesting and worth exploring.