Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin, Nicole Hardy


Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin: A Memoir


Nicole Hardy

Category: Nonfiction: Memoir: Religion; Mormonism

Synopsis: Hardy recounts her life as a Mormon and the separation she feels from her sexuality.

Date finished: 3 January 2014

Rating: ****

For the first half of the book, I thought this might well be one of the best books I’ll read in 2014. But then I got tired. And then it sort of devolved into something that I wasn’t quite comfortable with. What saves this book is the writing. A blogger last year said of Cheryl Strayed that she can write like—and she used a word I just don’t use, so I’m going to use the word “champ,” to make me look even more square than I am. Well, Hardy can write like a champ, too. I mean holy smoke. (I’d say Hardy is on par with Elizabeth Gilbert, though, as Strayed’s writing doesn’t knock me on my keister quite like Gilbert’s does. I feel Gilbert is more intellectual and Strayed is more emotional—in a loose cannon sort of way.)

I have no idea whatsoever what to say about this book. Really. None. I’m still processing it and deciding how close to it I want to stand.

I’ll start with this. I’m not a Mormon, but I respect the Mormon moral code, and I’ve read a lot of Mormon memoirs. I’ve read them by Mormons who remained faithful and by those who broke from the church. Those who were bitter and those who just moved on. Some who fit into the church and some who tried to make the church fit into them. This one straddles all of the lines. In some ways, it’s more of a whole picture of the Mormon church. In other ways, it’s a much more narrowed view. This book deals with one thing: how the Mormon church’s ardent stance on premarital sex makes a young woman feel divorced from her sexuality, her body, and her femaleness. A subplot is how the Mormon church’s belief that a Mormon woman’s ambition—indeed, her very identity—is motherhood, makes a woman feel shame for not wanting to have children.

But here’s where Hardy and I (or the book and I, to make it less personal) diverge: I always root for the Mormon to stay in the church, for the woman to want children, for virginity and family and faith and prayer and finding yourself whole within the church instead of in spite of the church.

This is a very personal book. It’s raw and emotional. I can understand how Hardy felt because she shows how she felt. She doesn’t demonize others or act the victim, though she feels the victim and feels demonized. My heart ached for Hardy.

But it didn’t agree with her.

I was rooting for the church all the way to the end. I guess you could say the church lost. But, the world gained a darn good writer.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes. And I think this would be a good book club read and discussion.

Other books about being Mormon:
The Book of Mormon Girl
The World’s Strongest Librarian
Heaven is Here
Becoming Sister Wives (polygamist Mormons)
Escape & Triumph (FLDS)
Stolen Innocence (FLDS)

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