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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

24 / 50 books. 48% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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48 / 50 books. 96% done!

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40 / 52 books. 77% done!

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27 / 40 books. 68% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

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65 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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44 / 52 books. 85% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Monday, March 06, 2017

Mormon Mentions: Carol Goodman

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture.


Nan Lewis, the main character in River Road by Carol Goodman, teaches creative writing at a college in upstate New York.  At the end of the novel, she's describing pieces written by her students.  She says:

An exchange student wrote a funny, irreverent piece about growing up Mormon in Scotland (270). 

There's not much to this passage, but a few things come to mind:
  • I would totally read a memoir (probably even an irreverent one) about growing up Mormon in Scotland!
  • The LDS Church was introduced in Scotland in the mid-1830s.  Over the next 2o years, almost 10,000 people joined the church.  More than 7,000 emigrated to the United States to join with Mormon pioneers from the U.S. and other countries on the trek to Zion.
  • Although I couldn't find any current statistics for church membership in Scotland alone, there are 186, 423 members in the U.K. (according to

Intriguing Premise + Sympathetic Heroine + Compelling Plot = Riveting Psychological Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Six years ago, Nan Lewis lost everything because of a drunk driver on River Road.  Her daughter's death shook her world, paralyzing her with grief and anger.  Unable to pen another word, Nan's career as a novelist stalled.  Her marriage crumbled as she curled in on herself, becoming a virtual hermit.  With her social life revolving mainly around her cat, the professor drinks too much while spending long, lonely hours brooding inside her rotting farmhouse.  The only thing that really matters to her is her job teaching creative writing at a college in upstate New York.  And now she's been denied tenure.  Things can't get much worse.

Then, they do.

While driving home from a faculty Christmas party on snow-packed River Road, Nan hits a deer.  Although her car is dented, she sees no sign of the dead animal.  Shaken, she just manages to fight her way through the heavy snow and park her mangled car at the bottom of her driveway.  She receives another shock when a policeman shows up on her doorstep the next morning informing her that one of her students—Leia Dawson—was killed the night before in a hit-and-run on River Road.  Because of Nan's damaged car, she's just become a suspect.  Despite her horrified protests, the overwrought professor can't be entirely sure of her own innocence.  She had been both upset and "slightly" intoxicated when she got behind the wheel.  Nan hit something with her car—was it a deer or something much, much more disturbing?  

As she becomes even more of a pariah in her small community, Nan searches her cloudy memories for the truth of what really happened that night on River Road.  When eerie tokens recalling her daughter's accident start showing up on her doorstep, Nan becomes even more unhinged.  What really happened to Leia Dawson?  Nan's (almost) convinced she had nothing to do with the young woman's death.  But if she didn't, who did?  As the stakes grow ever more perilous, the professor must figure out the truth.  Before it's too late.

With a premise like the one at the heart of River Road by Carol Goodman, how could I resist?  The novel opens with a bang and keeps up the intensity all the way through to its satisfying end.  Nan is a sympathetic character with realistic flaws that make her both relatable and root-worthy.  Myriad twists keep her story interesting.  Although I saw the killer coming from about halfway through the novel, I literally could not stop reading until I knew for sure what had happened to Leia.  River Road is that compelling.  Even though I've read a few more of Goodman's books since this one, River Road remains my favorite.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, mild sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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