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by John Fulton

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-312-27675-3
Publisher: Picador

The unhappy domestic life of a Utah family: a first novel from storywriter Fulton (Retribution, 2001).

Steven Parker is having a hard time of things, perhaps not so surprising for a teenaged boy living at home with his parents. He and sister Jenny are the only atheists in their Salt Lake City high school, which is somewhat like being the only Jew in Mecca. Classmates taunt them, and a gang of blond Mormon thugs led by the odious Danny Olsen beats up Steven. At the hospital, the siblings discover that their unemployed father has forgotten to make the insurance payments, and the family is saddled with a huge medical bill. Fortunately, Olsen’s father is a God-fearing man who, when he learns of the attack, makes Danny apologize and gives the Parkers a check to cover all the hospital fees and then some. Chalk one up for the Mormons: Jenny is so impressed by this generosity (and the proselytizing of classmate Janet) that she decides to become a Latter-day Saint herself. Steven, however, remains a resolute unbeliever, and their feckless father takes the family on a spending spree that fritters away the cash in no time at all. To make ends meet and ensure they have medical coverage, Steven’s mother takes a job as a nurse’s aide, washing and dressing elderly patients all day long at Oak Groves Assisted Living while Steven’s father talks vaguely of becoming a CPA . . . someday. Finally, the strain is too much, and she leaves her husband, taking Jenny and Steven with her. But her new husband Curtis, a Mormon, expects Steven to join the Latter-day Saints along with his mother and Jenny. Steven puts up with this for a while, but eventually goes back to Dad.

Well written but dull and uneventful.