It's lonely being a Mormon in New York City. Every year, Elna Baker attends the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. This year, her Queen Bee costume (which involves a funnel stinger stuck to her butt) isn't attracting the attention she'd anticipated. So once again, Elna finds herself alone, standing at the punch bowl, stocking up on Oreos, a virgin in a room full of thirty-year-old virgins doing the Funky Chicken. But loneliness is nothing compared to what Elna feels when she loses eighty pounds, finds herself suddenly beautiful...and in love with an atheist.
Brazenly honest, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance is Elna Baker's hilarious and heartfelt chronicle of her attempt to find love in a city full of strangers and see if she can steer clear of temptation and just get by on God.
I will admit that I'm not very familiar with the Mormon faith other than just the basics I learned in my Intro to Religion class as well as stereotypes about the faith portrayed in media. I have been reading other books dealing with Mormons but these are usually historical fiction and focusing mainly on polygamy. However even though I don't know much about it doesn't necessarily mean I don't WANT to know more about it. Therefore when I heard about this book, I was excited because it looked interesting, the author is my age and also because this book has one of the longest titles I've ever seen.
Elna is a most interesting person to read about. It was strangely refreshing to read about someone who wants to observe abstinence until marriage in a book that wasn't Christian fiction. I felt like an insider during all her relationships without being like a nosy busybody. There were times where I could very much relate to Elna. The most obvious is her never failing word vomiting. I do this ALL the time and I cannot stop myself from doing it. Reading about Elna doing the exact same thing made me cringe because I could totally see myself doing it. You don't know why these words are coming out of your mouth but they can't stop pouring out. I just felt the embarrassment for her because she didn't want to say these things but due to her nervousness and other feelings, it all just keeps coming out. I enjoyed learning about Mormonism from Elna as well. There were a lot of things that I learned and I enjoyed reading about her family. They sound a little crazy but it's obviously that they are very close and they do love each other a lot.
While I liked Elna a lot, I found some of her nativity to be a bit unbelievable. One of these incidents is the fact that she didn't realize that porn is available on the internet. I could understand if she had lived and grown up somewhere completely sheltered but she lived in New York City! Even if you have no desire to look for it at all, if you've used any sort of media in the past 15 years you would know about it. Also, there seem to be times when Elna seemed only to reinforce the stereotypes of being a Mormon at least in the way she wrote. She might not be this way in real life but in writing it just came off very cliched.
Overall, I found this book extremely funny and well written. Even if I don't agree with all of Elna's beliefs I found her story funny and refreshing. It was a fun read and I felt as if I learned a lot while reading while being entertained at the same time. It's just the type of memoir that I enjoy reading and love to recommend.
The New York Regional Mormons Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker is published by Plume (2010)
This review copy was provided by the publisher