Eugene Woodbury
Angel Falling Softly
Zarahemla Books, 2008
Softcover, 224 pages
ISBN:978-0-9787971-6-4
$15.95

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.

8 Comments

  1. wendy

    September 8, 2008

    I’m wondering, Maralise . . . would you now consider reading the Twilight books? 🙂

  2. dalene

    September 8, 2008

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been consuming books of late and I’m dying for more good reads.

  3. Angie

    September 8, 2008

    I read Path of Dreams a few months ago. I thought the premise was far more interesting than the execution. It was not your typical DB fare–too sexy, too mystical. Now I don’t mind sex and mysticism, but I was disappointed with the literary quality. I’m glad to hear that this author is continuing to develop, because I did see potential there.

  4. Shelah

    September 8, 2008

    Sounds like I need to add it to my list!

  5. Emily M.

    September 8, 2008

    Mara, great review! Did you read the brouhaha about this book over at ldspublisher?

  6. Maralise

    September 9, 2008

    Wendy–I would have to say that I would consider reading Twilight now, however, I would much rather delve into the wider history of vampire fiction and lore. I would be interested to know this book’s precedents because I think I missed a lot of the subtext of the novel due to my inexperience with vampire lore. Funny story: I was searching online to try to remember Ann Rice’s name…I searched for ‘vampire novel Jesus’ remembering that Rice had written a novel about Jesus later in her career. The first thing that came up was ‘Famous Mormon Vampires.’ Love it.

    Emily M.–I wasn’t aware of that particular discussion however I have been privy to a few others that have sounded very similar. I think ldspublisher did a good job in addressing the concerns of that reader. This is a public forum, if those that have been offended by the book speak up, then we’ll have a good balance and more information to make a decision whether to read or not. I can’t deny that I really enjoyed the book, but I’m sure there are others that might disagree. I’d love to hear why….

  7. Kel

    September 10, 2008

    After Path of Dreams, I actually ordered this one online without finding any reviews of it – not a small deal when international postage can be $1-$2 less than the book itself.

    Like Maralise, I found it a better read than Path though I need to read it again to absorb it without the extra drama I had going on at the time. I do remember it as a well thought out story – I recommended it to another bibliovore straight away!

    The vampire element really isn’t a huge focus – the interactions and motives are fascinating and honestly written, which is what really dragged me in.

  8. kudzu fire

    September 14, 2008

    looks like a great read!

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