A Dance for Three
Andrew R. Hall
Delacorte Press , April 2000.
Suggested retail price: $15.95 (US) 2001 AML Award: Young Adult Literature
In a "Year in Review" post that I wrote last January, I listed anumber of wonderful Mormon novels that were published in 2000. LaterI read Louise Plummer's A Dance for Three, and now I put thatbook at the top of that list. Louise Plummer is clearly in the verytop ranks of skilled Mormon writers. Some may have hesitated to readher work, because all her novels have had adolescent teenageprotagonists, and are marketed as girl's juvenile literature. Well,I'm here to tell you to cut it out. I have read three of her novelsso far, and very rarely have I ever seen someone so skillfully mixtogether the readability and flow needed in juvenile literature withliterary excellence. I'm not a literary person, so I canï¿½t explain itvery well, but some writers' literary styles feel fulfilling. My mindis stretched, the characters are complex, and I become emotionallyinvolved, not emotionally manipulated. Brady Udall, for example, isone who does this for me. Plummer is one of those who does it well,one of the best in Mormon literature. And A Dance For Three is thebest novel of hers I have read.
There is a good summary of the novel in the review archive. Verybriefly, Salt Lake City teenager Hannah gets pregnant, and herboyfriend responds by beating her up and leaving her. Hannah's fatherdied a few years eariler, and her mother had descended into adebilitating depression, leaving Hannah to run the house. Hannahcracks under the pressure, and is put in a psychiatric hospital.Hannah and her mother are able to regain some stability throughprofessional psychiatric help and help form a neighbor, friends, andthe local bishop.
There are a lot of good things to say about this novel, but a reason Ihave a strong attachment to this book is because my wife and I adoptedour son, and hope to adopt more. Therefore the story of a pregnantteenager who (at the end) must decide whether to give her baby up foradoption means a lot to me. Such a story poorly done would make memad, but in my guts Plummer's story feels right. She let's hercharacter live, not as an object lesson, but as a full fleshyindividual, whose pain I feel as my own. The final scene, in whichHannah mourns for and celebrates her baby, will stick in my headforever. I only met Lachlan's birth mother, Sarah, very briefly, andonly know a little about her. So Hannah's actions help me, I think,understand Sarah better, and love her that much more. It isn't oftena novel can have that kind of impact.
I'll never get around to writing reviews of them, but let me just saythat I also highly recommend Plummer's The Unlikely Romance of KateBjorkman and My Name is Su5san Smith, the 5 is Silent.They are about young women who are a writer and an artist, and sodon't have the same kick-in-the-guts resonance with me as A DanceFor Three. I just enjoyed them as great books. The first has noMormon references, the second is about a Mormon girl, but her religiondoesn't come up too much. Mormonism comes up more (but stillperipherally) in A Dance For Three. Mostly in how the Bishoprealizes his mistake in not helping Hannah's once active family moreafter her father died, and starts to make up for his actions in thesecond half.
Andrew Hall Wenatchee, WA
© 2002 Andrew R. Hall < email@example.com >