Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Love and Mormons: A Review of Third Wheel

This past weekend I had the pleasure of reading Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love by Melissa Leilani Larson. The book contains two plays, both of which feature a Mormon woman, as the subtitle advertises, in love.

The first play, Little Happy Secrets, stars Claire, a student in Provo, Utah whose roommate Brennan starts dating a young man whom Claire is not particularly fond of. The second, Pilot Program, centers on Abigail, a Salt Lake City blogger, professor, and married woman in her 40s whose luck in the baby-making department has not been so lucky.

The two plays make fine reading companions as they are each carried by a woman in a tough situation, telling her own story to the audience partly acted out and partly in monologue. By the time I finished Little Happy Secrets, I was almost convinced Claire's story wasn't just a story, but a personal history I had just read straight out of her diary. Abigail's story, which Larson calls a supposition, has the feel of a theoretical situation, but I still wanted to find a real Abigail and hug her when the stage went dark.

Larson asks impossible questions in a Mormon framework and offer no answers except the very real pain of her fictional characters. She manages to point both plays towards endings that may not be ideal but that are in some ways expected. The stories are beautiful and hold an undercurrent of unavoidable tragedy. I haven't felt so much empathy for fictional characters since Harry Potter lived in a cupboard under the stairs. Both main characters were relatable and believable, but I felt a special attachment to Abigail, probably due to my own baby-making failures which I've discussed briefly before on this blog and elsewhere. I don't want to give the game away, but I will say that Abigail's situation is one I've only pondered in my dark dreams. I don't think I would make her same choices, but I fully understand her process and why she does what she does.

This book perfectly captured the fear of so many Mormon women in love: Am I a third wheel in my own life? In my own love story? I want to be able to say so much more, but as Larson's stage direction suggests, sometimes silence is everything.

I can't recommend reading this one enough. I cried, I was intrigued, and I wanted to love more deeply. It's available through BCC Press on Amazon or CreateSpace. If you have read it, let me know what you think.