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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 21 May 2013
A witty and poignant exploration of family life within Mormonism. I was hooked from page one.

As a lifelong member, I read with amusement the familiar scenes that are an everyday part of our culture. The author's attention to detail made me chuckle out loud; from the Schloer in plastic cups (a staple of every Mormon gathering in the UK), and the licked cupcake / sexual purity analogy, to the diligently laminated, clip-art embellished handouts (a virtually compulsory addition to a lesson taught by any self-respecting (female) Sunday School teacher - I know, I have created hundreds of the damn things!), the novel provides a humorous glimpse into the lived-in experience of members up and down the country.

This comical view of the religion's quirks is delicately balanced against some of its more troubling aspects. Fear, secrecy, suffering, hypocrisy, judgemental attitudes, and constant pressure of perfectionism are as ubiquitous amongst the 'one and only true church' as white shirts and ties. Never judgemental herself, Ashworth offers her observations and leaves us to form our own opinions.

The shifting narrative perspective is carried out with dexterity, providing a touching insight to the thoughts and feelings of each member of the Leeke family. This access to their inner-world makes it almost impossible not to like them all - despite their foibles and flaws.

A must-read for anyone one whose lives have been affected by the Mormon church. And a highly entertaining exploration of its idiosyncrasies for everyone else!
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on 19 January 2013
This book is heart-breaking, funny and technically brilliant. I was fully immersed in the Leeke family's world and didn't want the novel to end. Having said that, the ending was beautifully handled; I loved the subtle way Ashworth employed sacrifice, atonement and redemption to bring the family together in the final scenes.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 23 January 2013
The book description of Jenn Ashworth's third novel outlines its basic content. The Leeke family are dysfunctional to the point where they are unable to express or communicate themselves to one another or even with outside kindred. They remain distinct individuals with no one particularly dominant. The author demonstrates this in a balanced series of monologues taken by each of the five family members amplifying their imperfections and perspectives. The depth of the characters is portrayed with a skilled blend of dark humour and melancholy. The reader is sucked into the disordered and disturbed family who await missionary Gary's return from Utah, hopefully as the family saviour. He, as we find, has his own troubles to add to the others' hopes, secrets and dreams, heading them all toward dissolution.

This is an exceptional novel that gives a rare insight into a Mormon family and way of life. It is much more than that, however, presenting a narrative written with vivid, distinctive prose of extraordinary complexity. The gradual build up to the climactic reunion turns it into something of a shock with affecting poignancy. Deeply moving but also affectionately composed and very humourous. Jenn Ashworth has given us a memorable book.
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on 2 October 2013
I read this book while sitting on a deckchair in the rain at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Over a couple of days I sat in the same deckchair, which seemed to wait on my appearance every morning and I carried on where I left off. After a while the rain dripping off my nose didn't even register, which is the great thing about reading an intriguing book. You are hooked and all is quiet as you devour the words and chapters.

The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth is a riveting read from the start. It starts off by introducing you to all the main characters through their own chapters and filling you with knowledge of daily life within the Mormon Community. You gather all the different traits and mishaps of each family member as you continue to read and it doesn't take long to fit all the family-tree pieces together. However, saying that, I did not see the end coming at all. Reading this book, I was convinced this was Jenn Ashowrth's real-life story, but there is nothing to say that it is. The detail and research that has gone into the completion of this tale as accurately as possible is astounding.

I was prepared for Gary to throw the towel in, I wanted his mum to go and see about her ailments before she was no longer with us and Jenny needed her Mr Darcy to appear and whisk her off to live happily ever after somewhere else. I began to care what their future held and it wasn't looking good for some of them.

This book does not have a 'big-bow' ending, it's a story of an unconventional family and the blood bond that holds them together but also drives them apart. I'm sure every reader will relate to each and every one of the slightly odd family members as they find their way in their somewhat restricted world.

I have a fascination with religion, especially the ones I know nothing about and this book fed my desire for information. The Friday Gospels is a refreshing look into another way of life, it may not be the way everyone would choose to live but life would be boring if we were all the same, wouldn't it?

[...]
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This novel is about the Leeke family who belong to the Mormon community in the Lancashire town of Chorley, and whose members - Martin, the father; Pauline, the mother; Julian, Gary and Jennie, their children - each take turns to tell the story. Martin is imprisoned in his marriage and is drawn to another woman, Nina. Pauline is an invalid unable to walk and distressingly incontinent. Bad-tempered Julian is a car mechanic working for Lewis Drake, his gross and abusive boss; and is the only member of the family who rebels against the faith, and he turns out to be mentally alarmingly and dangerously sick. Gary is coming home after two years away being trained in Utah to become a missionary and an Elder. Jennie is about fifteen and still at school, and will be in terrible trouble. There are portraits of other members of the Sect: Sister Ruth Williams and her handicapped five-year old daughter Angela; the gossipy Sister Maggie Travers.

We learn a lot about Mormon faith, Mormon thinking and the Mormon way of life. The faith of Pauline and of Ruth Williams, both suffering from profound afflictions, is amazingly sustaining, and I found these two the most involving characters. Poor stammering Gary, whose return to Chorley the community is eagerly awaiting, feels a failure because in those two years away, for all his own faith, he never managed to convert a single soul to Mormonism. Martin and Jennie feel constrained by the Mormon way of life, the way the community watches its members and gently but pervasively controls them.

There are a few obscurities in the novel. It is only towards the end of it, for example, that we realize that the person Jennie called Lewis and the one Julian calls Drake are in fact the same man. And there is much behaviour in the story that I found hard to believe, even before the convergence of the dramatic events on the day of Gary's return. Everything suggests a terrible ending, and Ashworth's tour de force is that we cannot call it bleak.
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on 6 February 2013
I found this to be quite compulsive reading and got caught up in the characters and plot. It shows how beliefs and values can be instilled without independent thought and the importance people attach to pleasing others rather than following their own direction in life. In fact there is a polarisation here: some of the characters follow their instinct in a completely uninhibited way [and this leads to misery and lessons learned] while some are totally repressed [and this leads to conflict and unhappiness]. What I really liked was that it was set in my home territory and was geographically absolutely accurate. It helped me understand a different belief system [Latter Day Saints - although I am not sure if they would agree]. There were lots of subplots within the main theme and each one was such interesting reading: a one sided love affair, a psychosomatic illness, a young girl's first venture with boys [disaster], relationships at school, family rejection, family reconcilliation, true personal sacrifice that was totally unexpected. All sorts - but the central theme was the family and as such it was just my kind of book - almost kitchen sink drama. Highly recommended by me and I can't wait to read another by Jen Ashworth - even though it did keep me up untill silly hours at night as I just couldn't put it down.
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on 21 May 2013
wonderfully written insight into an much unreported community, the british arm of an an american religion

thought the various storylines were entertaining, characters interesting, and with some nice 'what happened' questions to ponder over post book

@booklovinggirl "WW" - your comments about the author being 'terribly clever' and not attending school seem rather random and bitter??? whats up??
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on 21 May 2013
What a storyline! What compelling insight into the minds of 5 different members of one family! The background culture, for most people unfamiliar, of a Mormon community, has a strange way of tricking the reader into believing to see reasons for behaviour patterns and quite gently destroying this idea again. It could have happened anywhere, or could it?
It's a gem of a novel.
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on 21 May 2013
An absolute must read. I loved this book. It's witty and light-hearted, yet deep and compelling. I didn't want each chapter to end. I could totally relate to how some of the characters were feeling and although I didn't want it to end, it ended so perfectly.
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on 1 May 2013
This book was recommended by a friend and I had not heard of this author before. I enjoyed it very much as it was quite unusual.
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