A novelist’s account of her early life growing up Mormon in Utah and the family memories she kept hidden from herself.
Freeman (The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, 2007, etc.) was the sixth child and second girl in a family of eight children raised by a “stoic…resourceful, and very loving” mother and a moody, unpredictable, physically abusive father. The people around her in Ogden were mostly Mormon, but as the family “wild girl,” it was the “heathens” and rebels who interested her most. Her eldest brother, Bob, was the first to escape the family when he joined the Navy at age 17. Though he died less than two years later, he still managed to marry a Catholic woman and father a “damaged” child with her; Freeman's devoutly Mormon parents would eventually shun both. Meanwhile, the author struck up friendships with non-Mormon girls who smoked, drank, and flirted with boys. At age 17, she married John Thorn, the Mormon boyfriend and BYU graduate her beautiful, “ladylike” elder sister had rejected and whom she found attractive precisely because he had been with her sibling. She became pregnant almost immediately and gave birth to a son with a heart defect. Freeman followed her husband to a job as a counselor at a Minnesota liberal arts college, where she befriended a group of young intellectuals. When the opportunity for an affair with the pediatric cardiologist treating her son arose, Freeman accepted it, just as she accepted returning home to her parents in the wake of her eventual divorce. The author’s story is highly readable, but its true power derives from the realizations she had later in life when she asked John to help her answer two questions: why she had married so young and chosen him as her husband. John’s answers revealed that while she may have succeeded in suppressing memories—which John brought forward—of her father’s cruelty, Freeman could never entirely free herself of the Mormon faith she had always questioned.
A poignant, searching memoir of self-discovery.