Bookcraft , 1994.
Suggested retail price: $7.95 (US)
Genre: Young Adult Novel
Audience: LDS teens
Two Roads deals with a non-member teenage boy who comes in contact with the Church through an attractive female classmate. His relationship with her leads him to investigate the church, but his anti-Mormon father stands in the way.
To a person who has read only popular Mormon novels, Two Roads would be a good read. It is devoted to promoting the Church, it has the sterotypical characters one comes to expect in Mormon novels, and it has just the right touch of sentimentality. In other words, it will make you feel warm and fuzzy about what you already believe or should believe.
To a person who has read a lot in addition to popular LDS novels (including Newberry Award winning books), Two Roads may disappoint. Two Roads is a Mormon fantasy that depicts good characters exactly as we hope them to be, bad characters exactly as we hope them to be, and resolves problems that we already know the right answers to in exactly the way we hope they can be resolved. In other words, Two Roads has very little to offer.
I have been reading a lot of young adult and juvenile fiction over the past couple of years and have been immensely impressed by what I have found. The complexity, sensitivity, and beauty I find in books such as Afternoon of the Elves, Bridge to Terebithia, and Dicey's Song has almost been overwhelming. These books delve deep into the humanity of the characters and explore the characters in situations that have no black and white answers or resolutions. These books force me to exercise my ability to deal with life and love my neighbors as I experience difficult situations and troubling questions. The authors of these books create these characters and situations so well that in the end I know I have experienced God through the beauty of their art.
Two Roads is written competently. The sentences are solid, the storyline holds firm, the structure is stable. The content, however, is sentimental fantasy. This can be seen in three ways:
1. Mormon fantasy characters. The main male character (Jared) is what we know as a "dry Mormon." He doesn't cuss, drink, or mess around with women although he is abused by a father who probably does. The main female character (Leisel) is the angel on earth that every innocent, active, Mormon boy dreams about. She is beautiful in body and soul and sins only in that she keeps a messy room. As far as I could tell, she has no problems whatsoever other than converting the main male character. There is Leisel's exceedingly functional LDS family. There is Jared's exceedingly dysfunctional non-LDS family. There is a proverbial "bishop's son" (Rob) who is running wild.
2. Mormon fantasy events. Leisel fearlessly asks the golden question upon first meeting Jared. Leisel's little brother invites Jared to Church upon their first meeting. Jared is converted during the first discussion. Leisel dies in Jared's arms. Leisel's family is sad but wonderfully peaceful after Leisel's untimely and unnecessary death. Jared serves a successful mission and comes home to find his Dad a little more tolerant and his mother investigating the Church.
3. Mormon fantasy problems. The major problems encountered are Jared having the courage to join the Church in spite of his violent father's wishes and Jared, while on his mission, having to put up with a green companion who is acting like, well, like a green companion. There is the question of whether the bishop's son will return to the fold, but that isn't a problem, it's just a question (you'll have to read the book to find out). That's all.
As I said, this novel is a Mormon fantasy giving us the life we dream of having or pretend to have. I would hesitate to let my sons read the book because if they are as naive as I was as a child, they might learn to expect the unexpectable. Can we be missionaries in our everyday life? Certainly. Can our friends be converted? Of course. Can we choose to go on a mission? I did. But do any of these things resemble the way things happened in Two Roads? Not in my experience (and I come from a very conservative Mormon background). Perhaps the overall problem I had in reading this book is false expectations. I came looking for art, the beauty of which would help me experience God, but what I got was a dramatized sermon aimed at encouraging me to go on a mission and stay faithful to the Church. Perhaps this is what Chris Crowe intended to do all along. If so, he did it very well. I was just expecting more.
© 1995 Tory Anderson