The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth

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The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A story of extraordinary complexity and depth which reads very easily. It deals with some big issues, but there's affection in the telling. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: January 2013
Publisher: Sceptre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444707724

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There are five in the Leeke family. Martin is the father and he works in the mail sorting office. There's not a lot of pleasure in Martin's life, but if you were making a list you'd put Bovril at the top of it. She's a labrador and Martin's obsessed with her training. Well, he's partly obsessed with the training and the training is partly an excuse for his other obsession. Nina owns two labradors and Martin sees them (he and Nina, that is - not he and the labs) as having a future together. It would be easy to be critical, but Martin's wife is in a wheelchair. Pauline's been unwell since the birth of their youngest child. She's not quite doubly incontinent, but accidents are frequent and embarrassing. She's also got a penchant for spending on home improvements - despite the fact that there really isn't the money for them.

Julian's their eldest child and at twenty six he's still living at home. Even those who do their best to be kind about him (and there are not that many of them) would describe him as strange. Pauline thinks that he's hankering after a married woman from church but his sights are not set in that direction at all. The youngest child is Jeannie. She's fourteen and she has a dreadful secret. And then there's the middle child, Gary. On the Friday that we join the family they're waiting for Gary's return from a two-year mission to Utah. The Leekes are Lancastrian Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What do you do when you realise that Christmas Day is going to be a dreary day, unless something spectacular comes along? Well, you put The Friday Gospels where you can't get at it before the day and then you read. Forget the turkey, presents and everything else. Read. As I was telling you about the family I wanted to tell you that the novel was his or her story, but the book is perfectly balanced and no one dominates. It's the story of the family on that particular day when they're heading for meltdown. It's also a story of extraordinary complexity, dealing with some very big issues (no - I'm not going to tell you... I'd spoil it for you), but which is written with a lightness, a sureness of touch which makes reading so easy.

And on the subject of 'easy', it must be tempting when you're writing about a less-than-mainstream religious faith to satirise, but Jenn Ashworth is never less than kind, affectionate even and she gives an extraordinary insight into the Mormon way of life to the point where I found myself examining many of my own attitudes. At a time when the religious beliefs of an American Presidential candidate became a 'cause for concern' it was a useful balance to see the church at its grassroots.

There's black humour. There were times when I could have wept for one of the family. And - you know - Christmas wasn't so bad after all.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

We loved Cold Light, also by Jenn Ashworth. For more of the Mormons you could try The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff - but it's not a patch on The Friday Gospels.

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Buy The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth at


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121Hunting said:

The book is an interesting commentary on Mormon families and lifestyles. It takes place in Chorley, Lancashire where a large Mormon community exists. There is also a large Preston Temple Complex there, where only worthy Mormons are allowed to enter the Temple and perform in special ordinances.

The book does indeed highlight the pressure and a supression found in many Mormon families but the main reason for the stressful and dysfunctional lifestyles of many Mormon individuals and families in Chorley and in all the Mormon communities at large, lies within their highly secretive Temple ceremonies.

All members of the Mormon church are told they must attend these Temple ceremonies regularly. When inside the Temple, they all dress in long white Temple robes, hats and green aprons, kneel at Altars, where they promise to obey strict and secretive Temple Oaths, if they wish to achieve their Eternal Exaltation in Heaven. This is where faithful Mormons fully believe they will become Gods and Goddesses in eternity and rule with God in Heaven.

All Mormons must live their lives in complete obedience and compliance with very strict Mormon Laws and Commandments, including the wearing of special undergarments that must be worn 24 hours every day and night.

This is just a part of a very restrictive Mormon Doctrine that members of the church are taught in their classes and in their families. On top of all this they must pay 10% of all their gross annual income into the Mormon church before they are allowed entrance into their Temples to receive these Eternal blessings.

Members are told they must always obey and never question any church statements or decisions in any way whatsoever, as it is considered a sin against God to do this, by their church leaders.

All of these relentless pressures and more by the church leaders on their members, causes great emotional and psychological problems for many individuals and families within the highly secretive Mormon culture.

There are many good and decent members of the Mormon church who are under this constant pressure to become perfect by their church leaders, and it is a tragedy that many of them feel cut off and isolated at times from normal every day life and from the rest of the communities around them.

This book gives a glimpse into aspects of Mormon life but the deep doctrinal and underlying causes of this dysfunction suffered by many members of the Mormon church are not addressed in what is an otherwise a highly interesting and alluring commentary on Mormon family life.