Timpanogos by Glen R. Stott is the romantic saga of Randal Anderson, beginning as a young boy in the spring of 1958 as he begins to discover the world of dating and the new boundaries and responsibilities of a young adult.
Raised a Mormon, Randal’s religious life gives him great joy and purpose while creating sparks of friction with his new-found interest – respectful though it may be – in girls. When he meets his first true love in a young Catholic lady named Allyson Crawford, the differences in their backgrounds raise serious questions for Randal as their simple dates become more serious entanglements, sealed with a fateful trip to the Timpanogos Mountain. When family and religion come between them, and their desires wax and wane, Randal finds his life changing in unexpected ways without the company of Allyson, and the pair begin to drift into unimagined territories.
Timpanogos is engaging and heartfelt. We follow Randal’s journey, through all the day-to-day lumps and bumps of childhood, adolescence, and further, his self-discovery and dealings in the realms of romance providing a rather realistic and believable character with goals and interests that, while rather foreign to people who may not hold the same beliefs or be familiar with the times, are something the reader can invest in. Towards the beginning of the story, the characters feel flat and without depth, where Randal and his friends have been raised to have little of their own agency, and deviation is discouraged. The characters later become distinct and have their own stories that play out over time, and the whole book is a very keenly considered work for how the world and the people in it change over the years, holding an interesting long-term narrative that doesn’t really concern itself with typical storytelling habits.
A major note about the book is its length. Each chapter has some bulk to it, focusing on key events of a much longer narrative, and in the long run these are fairly concise and generally necessary in the overall flow of events. Still, the book frequents superfluous detail and explanation that pads every chapter enough to make the read draining, and there’s little doubt that a thorough commonsense edit could downsize the page-count considerably without compromising the book’s integrity whatsoever. Re-explanation of events well-enough described in a previous sentence, or a tell-don’t-just-show attitude toward contextual relevance and character motivation frankly pulls the read down. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but for most able readers these hand-holding sentences are quite unnecessary, and even trying to read a single chapter can feel like work, albeit work usually worth its while.
The book is romantic from an early point and crosses into more erotic themes by the time Randal and his friends have become old enough to seriously face the issue. Despite being heavily Mormon-themed, the book is neither disrespectful nor thoroughly dogmatic. Many common beliefs are brought into question for Randal, but at no point is his, or any other characters’, religious belief dismissed, despite the turns in their lives. There’s no denying it is a central theme, but it’s something integrated with finesse, as with the polite elements of eroticism introduced in time.
Timpanogos is an unusual book, perhaps appealing to a slightly older YA readership with its traditional, 20th century retrospective – serial romance peppered with old-soul wisdom, and an accepting attitude toward loss and the gradual changes that sneak up in life. For people seeking a fresh, emotional read, Timpanogos is a very decent book to try out.
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