Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review: Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster

Last night I read novelist Sarah Dunster's book Mile 21. Though I don't often read LDS fiction or romance, I was extremely pleased with this book. Here is the book trailer, if you are interested in watching it.

Told from a 1st person narrative, it started off a little slow. It took me a couple chapters to really feel like I was getting to know the character, and be interested in her story. Before you understand her, Abish Miller can appear to be very selfish and angry. She is often rude and makes decisions that don't seem to make logical sense.

However, as you learn her backstory, her actions begin to be more understandable. Abish is struggling from a terrible tragedy (her husband died unexpectedly), and it is difficult for her to function normally, especially when she doesn't even know what normal is supposed to be anymore. What do you do as a widowed twenty-one-year-old at BYU-Idaho? How are you supposed to live your life when you have already been sealed in the temple?

Events spiral out of her control, and suddenly, the recent widow finds herself forced back in a single's ward against her will, with her over-controlling boss as the Bishop.

This book winds a series of complex emotions with unexplained twists and challenges. It wasn't very long after I began the book that I not only began to like Abish, but I found myself identifying with her. The emotions that were reflected in this book caused me to laugh, to rage, and to cry (several times). I became so engrossed that it was difficult to tear myself away. Though the main protagonist is fictional, the emotions portrayed were very real.

Abish is not a perfect character, but as the book progresses, so does her journey. This book deals with some very complex and little talked about issues that face widows in our church, especially young widows. It respectfully and realistically discusses doctrine that is often left alone and situations that we avoid talking about altogether, including divorce and rape.

Then, just as it seems Abish is getting her life back together and things are going to work out, a drastic misunderstanding seems like it will forever ruin Abish's chance for happiness. As darkness seems like it will overwhelm her, Abish truly learns to rely on the Lord.

This book was especially interesting for me, as it dealt with an area I am very familiar with and a culture that I lived in for a while. The author has definitely done some good research. I learned quite a bit about what others are going through during tragedy and it reminded me that I needed to be patient when others are suffering.  This book helped to remind me that there is no time-limit to pain. Unless we find a way to be happy, it can continue interminably. This book tries to show that this life is meant to bring you joy, and it does an incredible job. This was an emotional roller-coaster of a book for me, as I tend to get sucked into characters' emotions, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

This book is written to target a young Latter-Day Saint audience. If you don't understand LDS culture, some parts of this book may be confusing for you.

If you are looking for a light, fun read, this  may not be the book for you. However, if you want a thought-provoking powerful story that will occasionally make you laugh and cry, you should definitely check out Mile 21. The journey can be emotionally difficult, but the end is worth it.



  1. WOw. Love the review. Thank you, Rebecca! And glad you understood it. I always worry a bit when friends and family read my stuff. I'm so glad you liked it.

    1. Glad it was acceptable. ;) I enjoyed the book quite a bit. Finished it last night while Grig was playing risk with his brother via skype. I had a really hard time putting it down...or hearing Kevin when he was babbling to me. That part wasn't so good. Luckily, he survived his mother's inattentiveness...I think.

  2. I bought this last week and finally finished it today. It was definitely something that I needed to read, especially with the trials I've been going through lately. Sarah does a great job of showing that no matter what happens, we can always come back.