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THE BISHOP’S WIFE by Mette Ivie Harrison: Book Review

Linda Wallheim is a typical Mormon wife and mother.  Her husband Kurt is the bishop of a ward, the community’s leader, and Linda is a stay-at-home wife, with the youngest of their five sons about to graduate from high school.  She is a devoted member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, although a questioning one, and events in their small Utah town are going to give her more reasons to question than she ever had before.

An early morning visit by a member of their ward, Jared Helm, and his young daughter Kelly brings the news that Jared’s wife has left their home.  He claims that he doesn’t know where Carrie is, only that she left a note saying that she wasn’t going to return.  Jared has come to see the bishop to get his reassurance that he hasn’t done anything wrong and that the church is behind him.

Then Carrie’s parents, Judy and Aaron Weston, come to the bishop for help.  They are certain, they say, that Jared is behind Carrie’s disappearance and possibly her death.  They tell Linda and Kurt that Carrie was desperately afraid of her husband, that he had threatened and abused her, keeping her away from her parents. 

They have gone to the police but were told that Carrie wasn’t gone long enough to declare her a missing person.  Linda suggests calling a press conference and asking for the public’s help, and the Westons agree to do that.  In the meantime, Linda has formed a strong attachment with five-year-old Kelly, and she is upset and disturbed when Jared’s father moves into Jared’s house and seems reluctant to let Linda spend any time with his granddaughter.

At the same time, the Wallheims’ neighbor, Tobias Torstensen, is very ill but refusing to go to the hospital for treatment despite entreaties from his wife Anna.  Anna is his second wife, the stepmother of his two sons.  And when Tobias dies shortly afterwards, he leaves a number of unanswered questions about his first wife and the plans for his burial.

Mette Ivie Harrison has written a fine novel, interspersing doctrines of the Mormon church with the stories of the Helms and the Torstensens.  Explanations are needed, because much of the novel depends on understanding the rules of the church, many of which are different from other Christian sects. 

As the bishop’s wife Linda Wallheim has no direct power, but she tries to be aware of issues surrounding her.  She is angry at herself for not seeing the trouble between Carrie and Jared Helm, thinking she might have been able to prevent the young wife from running away, and she is concerned about her own intense interest in young Kelly.  Is it because she is worried about the type of father and grandfather the girl has or is it because in Kelly she sees the child she might have had if her only daughter had not been stillborn?

The Bishop’s Wife is a fascinating look into a religion unfamiliar to many of us.  Linda Wallheim’s doubts and concerns are real, as are the sudden, strong feeling she gets about people, either pro or con.  She is sure of herself one minute, doubting herself the next.  She is a very human character.

You can read more about Mette Ivie Harrison at this web site

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site






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