Just a Sample or Two
From More than a Hundred Reviews
Of This Is the Place

Permission to republish these reviews has been given
by the authors and publishers of these reviews.
Each requests only that the reviews are properly credited.

 


American Authors Association
Book Review

This is the Place

Author:  Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Publisher:  AmEricahouse

Reviewer: W. H. McDonald – American Authors Assoc. (AAA) President

A novel that explores growing up as a non-Mormon in Utah

There are certain issues involving our culture that you cannot question as an author without getting all kinds of hits – both positive and negative and none of them have anything what-so-ever to do with the literary merits of the story. One of those is to question or comment on some particular religious organization, even if indirectly. It takes literary courage and becomes a fine line between the art, prose and the balance of truth.

However, the truth is determined by our own personal insights as to what is correct. It almost always reflects the life long training and the belief system of your family, community and those who educated you. Very few ever really explore religions outside their own youthful indoctrinations into whatever cultural and religious heritage we were born into. So, when author Carolyn Howard-Johnson writes a book based on her alienation from the surrounding culture of Mormonism in Utah she is bound to open herself up as a target.

Carolyn’s book title is taken from a quote of LDS leader Brigham Young when he looked out over Salt Lake City and proclaimed “This is the Place.” Contrary to some reviews I had read about her book, I found that there was no attempt to attack any organization. She deals with people in her book and it is the actions and views of her characters that become the focus of the issues in her story. However, the culture she writes about is a collective thought and action process of a group. She writes about her lead character having to deal with life as a non-Mormon in a state where this is the primary social driving force. The premise seems to be that no matter what you do or achieve as a non-member of this cultural you will always remain feeling like you are on the outside or at least separated in some social way.

Carolyn uses her lead character to bring out the past as she explores her family genealogy. We discover how a group of early founders escaped from the bigotry and persecutions of other places. They came to Utah to build a place where they would not endure such things again. In her book, it seems that the former persecuted become intolerant of outsiders over time. Maybe not in brutal ways like blacks had in the south but at least socially there was a division between the non-believers and those of the LDS church.

When reading her book one gets the feeling that her story seems almost personal and autobiographical. It feels like we are following along in a memoir of someone exploring their family and themselves, looking for their roots and meaning. It is well written and the prose is top notch stuff. It flows with energy as it almost dances through the pages. Her characters are all alive with depth and animation. This was her first novel but it feels like classic a piece of literature – like many other great first novels of our time.

This book will continue to be controversial but hopefully in a healing way. I get the feeling that the author is trying to throw a mirror out there for people to look into for discovering there own roots. I think the author obviously has great writing skills and talents. I hope people read this story with both an open mind and heart so that they can fully enjoy the actual story she has created.


 Bookland Review

This Is The Place
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Purchase this Book Used
for Only about $1.00
 

There is a recent review of this book at amazon.com (December 29, 2001) that so misses the mark I find it hard to believe that reviewer and I were reading the same book. The reviewer takes pains to belittle the idea that subtle prejudice is, in fact, prejudice. One wonders how much prejudice of any sort said reviewer has encountered in her life; if a person's definition of prejudice begins and ends at the business end of a baseball bat, then it's obvious such a person is not going to pick up on what's going on under the surface in this novel.

That reviewer does say something worth repeating, however. The comparison on the back jacket between This Is the Place and Gone with the Wind is ludicrous. Mitchell's first (and blessedly only) novel was an overblown, unreadable piece of melodrama that should better have been published, in the words of Melville, to the flames. Howard-Johnson's first novel is exactly the opposite; it's a spare novel, rarely a word out of place and with very little filler, without long diversions that have little to do with the central characters. No, Gone with the Wind this isn't, and I, for one, couldn't be happier.

Set in 1959, This Is the Place gives us Skylar Eccles, between high school and college, working for the local paper, and a non-Mormon living in the state of Utah. She's dating a Mormon seriously, and it looks as if she's treading the same routs as most of her ancestors that we get to know in this novel: she's going to marry a Mormon. But how that affects her, how her wordless battle against pre-ERA workplaces, and the various other strings of plot here are of secondary importance. This Is the Place is a novel about the Eccles family and Sky's attempt to put the recent family history into words. [ed. note to be edited out of the Amazon posting: In other words: this is what Billiards at Half Past Nine could have been and wasn't.] It is a love affair with genealogy, and that is what makes this novel shine. More than once while reading this, I found myself making comparisons to Lee Smith's brilliant novel Oral History; I get the feeling that the audiences for the two books would cross over perfectly.

Since I felt compelled to mention the prejudice angle previously, I might as well attempt to justify it. Sure, there's prejudice to be found here. Anyone who grew up with Tom Fitzgerald's wondrous Great Brain books has a basic understanding of the ins and outs of Utah society. Not much changed between T. D. and his family at the turn of the century and Sky in 1959. Much is made of the oppression of the Mormons by American society; much is made of the oppression the Mormons foist on others, as well, both the non-Mormons living in Utah and those places to whom the Mormons send missionaries. There's also a rather biting passage about the non-Mormon minority's feelings towards the Mormons that had me wanting to stand up and cheer for our heroine. Yes, prejudice is pervasive in this novel, but it's not thrown in our faces with the tacit understanding that we should Do Something About It. It's presented in a more Nietzschian fashion-- what doesn't kill us, etc. Does that make this a bad book, or a "sell-out" as far as prejudice goes? Far from it-- would that more American literature treated prejudice in such a pragmatic fashion.

My main problem with the book has nothing at all to do with Carolyn Howard-Johnson and the tales she spins within its pages, but with the publishers. The editor fell asleep at the wheel more times than I can count, and every spelling and grammatical mistake jars, especially when there are ten or twenty per page (this is commonplace in the large italicized blocks towards the end where Sky actually starts writing down all this family history). If you're a nitpicker, beware-- there are large blocks of this novel where you'll be slowed down by a shoddy editing department. I thought the book was well worth reading despite that, but your mileage may vary.


Scribes World Review

This Is The Place
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Purchase this Book Used
for Only about $1.00
 

Reviewed by Connie Bryceland

4 Stars
THIS IS THE PLACE
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
AmErica House Books-2001
ISBN 1588513521
General Fiction

I chose to read and review THIS IS THE PLACE in spite of the fact that I am a rather lapsed Catholic and had always believed the Mormon religion to be a stifling, unforgiving one and of little interest to me. After reading this book, I still hold my opinion with regards to the confinements of the religious beliefs of the Mormons or Latter Day Saints. But the story as it is presented is compelling enough that I was drawn in after a chapter or two, and ended up reading it all in one day.

The book is told primarily from the viewpoint of Sky Eccles, a young woman of nineteen, set in 1959 Utah. Sky is the child of a "mixed" marriage, in her world. Her father is a Mormon and her mother is not. Her family name is rich in Mormon tradition and offers Sky some protection from the insidious prejudice against "non-believers". Some protection, but not total protection. Sky has always known that she is different and this knowledge becomes more obvious as she carefully and lovingly researches her family history, especially fascinated by one grandmother who had converted in order to marry the man of her choosing. Still, when the time comes for Sky to consider marriage, she is unable to offer any such concession to her young man, Archer Benson. Archer is from a staunch Mormon family and there is little question that Sky will not be a welcome bride.

Sky is modern in many ways for her time, more so considering her conservative upbringing. She works as a reporter for a local newspaper-not the church-owned one-and hopes to obtain a degree in journalism on day. Sky's dreams depend largely on her decision regarding her engagement to Archer. If they marry as planned, she will leave school to support the young couple until he either graduates or completes his church-mandated mission. Ultimately, Sky breaks away entirely, opting for her own degree in New York City when Archer heads for Boston to attend Harvard. She and Archer part ways and later, when Sky returns to Utah to visit the graves of her grandparents, she realizes that she is no longer a permanent part of the land she had thought was in her blood and bones. She recognizes the quiet prejudice here in her homeland just as she had discovered the spread of racial inequities during the sixties throughout the country after she left Utah, noting that the intolerance here is not that different, if less vocal or violent.

THIS IS THE PLACE is a very good read. It is well written and literary in style with plenty of description of people and place to set the tone. It does not paint Utah as a place I would like to live, but perhaps that is as hasty a judgment on my part as some of those displayed by Sky's associates. In any event, Ms. Howard-Johnson quite evidently knows her subject material and has skillfully woven her knowledge into an intriguing book.


Buy Links for Carolyn's Books

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and
HARKENING at Amazon in their new and used feature.
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Great Poetry
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IMPERFECT ECHOES: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters,
lie and oppression with Small

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CHERISHED PULSE: Unconventional Love Poetry
IMAGINING THE FUTURE: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions
SHE WORE EMERALD THEN: Reflections on Motherhood
BLOOMING RED: Christmas Poetry for the Rational
DEEPER INTO THE POND: Celebration of Femininity
SUBLIME PLANET: Celebrating Earth and the Universe
 

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~
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

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This Is the Place
Study Guide

Click Here to use the study guide included in This Is the Place as a guide for your book's study guide.


Rebecca Brown of RebeccasReads.com said, "
At the end [of This Is the Place]  there is a Reading Group Guide of questions for serious discussion, which transforms this novel into a textbook about closed societies & their impact.
"


Carolyn's Blogs

The Frugal Retailer Blog
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Carolyn's Awards

Awards for Carolyn's Books, Blogs and More

The New Book Review
Named to
Master's in English.org Online Universities'

101 Essential Sites for Voracious Readers

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites
for
Sharing with Writers blog.

 


Best Book Award for The Frugal Book Promoter (2004) and The Frugal Editor (2008) and the Second Edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (2011).

 

Reader Views Literary Award for The Frugal Editor

New Generation Award for Marketing and Finalist for The Frugal Editor

Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award

Military Writers Award of Excellence for
Tracings, A Chapbook of Poetry.


A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotion wins author Military Writers Society of America's Author of the Month award for March, 2010

 

Gold Medal Award from Military Writers Society of America, 2010. MWSA also gave a nod to She Wore Emerald Then, a chapbook of poetry honoring mothers.

The Frugal Editor Named #! on Top Ten Editing Books list.

Finalist New Generation Book Awards 2012, The Frugal Book Promoter; Finalist 2010 The Frugal Editor;
Winner 2010 Marketing Campaign for the Frugal Editor


The Oxford Award
recognizes
the alumna who exemplifies the Delta Gamma precept of service to her community and who, through the years, devotes her talents to improve the quality of life around her.

The Frugal Book Promoter is runner-up in the how-to category for the Los Angeles Book Festival 2012 awards.

Glendale City Seal
Winner Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts
Glendale California's Arts and Culture Commission and the City of Glendale Library,
2013

And more than a dozen other awards for Carolyn's novel, short story collection and poetry. See the awards page on this site.


Published Works Almanac


Other Interests

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Tolerance


Carolyn's Poetry

Tracings
Imperfect Echoes
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Travel


Carolyn's Literary Works

This is the Place
Harkening
Published Shorter Works


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For Writers
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Endorsement

“It is interesting to learn how others live especially when you are reading a well written book.” ~ Connie Martinson, Host of the syndicated TV program“Connie Martinson Talks Books”

This Is the Place, winner of eight awards including Sime-Gen's Readers Choice Award

This book is out of print and is available only using Amazon's new and used feature.


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