Angel Falling Softly
Zarahemla Books, 2008
Softcover, 224 pages
It has vampires, love scenes, and is written by a Mormon author. But it’s definitely not part of the Twilight series. It is, however, a good read. I would even venture to say that it’s a great read. Having ardently stayed away from Twilight and almost all vampire related fiction (see previous book snob comments), I was at the very least pleasantly surprised when I was captivated by the tight and nuanced writing in Eugene Woodbury’s most recent release from Zarahemla Books. I was surprised mostly because I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as the target audience for a vampire novel, but also because I was impressed by the dramatic improvements made in storytelling, language and plot development compared to Woodbury’s previous novel, ‘Path of Dreams.’
One thing I was mildly amused by is the controversy that has surrounded the novel. From claims of too much sex to too-harsh critiques of Utah (Mormon?) culture, I found each claim both validated and invalidated in the text. Yes, there’s sex. Yes, it’s done well, both titillating and vague, not explicit but not shy. Yes, there are right-on and hilarious critiques of Mormon culture, but I love a society that can both laugh and argue with itself. Woodbury’s novel does both very well.
A complicated relationship between Rachel, a bishop’s wife, her dying daughter Jennifer, and a vampire (Milada) is the foundation of the story. When Rachel learns that Milada is moving into the neighborhood, she hears exaggerated stories of this new and beautiful neighbor from the gossip mill. She says, “Still, a model for a neighbor would be interesting. Not as interesting as having a daughter dying in the hospital. But even tragedy got boring when it dragged on long enough.” I think it’s the combination of tragedy and dark humor that Woodbury combines so well in this novel. He presents an unlikely story filled with real people and then lets human nature write the rest.
I wouldn’t have picked this book up at B&N had it been on the shelf. I probably wouldn’t have ordered it off of Zarahemla’s webpage had I been browsing. But, having had it recommended it to me, I feel compelled to do the same to others that might not be explicitly looking for vampire fiction. THIS ONE just might be worth your time.