Having grown up loving horror novels and movies, “true” ghost stories and everything else that goes bump in the night, I decided the co-existence of vampires and Mormons would be a fun proposition. At the same time, I mused that the priesthood kind of spoils every supernatural threat. If a bishopric faced Linda Blair instead of a couple of Catholic priests, The Exorcist would have been 10 minutes long– mostly taken up by the brethren suiting up, being reminded to bring home a gallon of 2%, and carpooling over to the house. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up “Angel Falling Softly,” by Eugene Woodbury.
The story is basically about two women bonding, like Dark Shadows on the We Channel, ’cause one of them is The Undead. Rachel is a bishop’s wife and mother of two daughters. Her younger one, Jennifer, has been battling cancer for six months and her little body’s just about ready to give out– as is Rachel’s faith. Enter Milada Daranyi, a corporate pirate who rents a home in their neighborhood and is amused (and a mite charmed) by her Mormon neighbors. She and Rachel click and, despite her best efforts, Milada can’t keep the desperate mother from learning her secret. Rather than be repelled, however, Rachel begins to see her new friend as the salvation she’d been praying for– or is she? Can good come from evil? And would God provide such an instrument?
“Angel Falling Softly” felt like a really good first draft. Too many characters– Rachel’s husband, her other daughter Laura, Milada’s sister Kammy– were no more than caricatured thumbnails to help move the story along. Also, I felt there was a little too much time spent on scripture sparring during Rachel and Milada’s arguments. Milada’s subplot, too, seemed to have been borrowed from the movie Pretty Woman and I kept waiting for the line, “Ms. Daranyi and I are going to build ships together– great big ships!”
That said, I enjoyed “Angel Falling Softly,” particularly for bringing the vampire into the Mormon environment, and because it was a genuinely entertaining page-turner. I liked how each woman questioned her own conventions and struggled for a truth they could live with (well… except Milada…live that is), and I liked how their relationship developed. I’ve read other reviews where the book had been criticized for making a mockery of the Plan of Salvation. Hello!– it’s a story about vampires. It does nothing to challenge our faith (although maybe our opinion of vampires… and corporate pirates. Hey, wait– that’s irony! ). Frankly, I thought it brought up some very good (if implausible) arguments. Make no mistake, though: “Angel Falling Softly” is not like the “Twilight” series, created for gasping teenage girls. The premise, the thought processes, the language, are all adult– not to say it’s ADULT, just mature.
It’s exciting to see Mormon literature coming out that breaks the barriers of New Era storyland and expands into horror, fantasy and other genres. By bringing them into our familiar backyard, it makes them more real and affecting, enhancing the pleasure of the experience.
And who knows… one day…a Mormon superhero, perhaps?
Iron Rod Man?