Angels Round About
Lorie H. Nicholes
Stellar Publishing and Distribution, 1998. Paperback:
Suggested retail price: $13.95 (US)
Angels Round About is a sweet, nicely-told story of a youngconvert, Hildegarde (Hilde) Edler, who grew up in Austria duringHitler's rise to power. It follows her as she blossoms into abeautiful young woman who eventually emigrates to the United Statesand begins a new life in freedom and abundant opportunity. Hermission had been clear, having met Apostle John A. Widtsoe and beingtold by this Elder of Zion that she would go to America and perform avaluable service for the Lord.
The author indicates that the book, while fiction, is based on truestories. What impressed me so much was the utter believability of thestory. So many times you finish a story and are convinced that thewhole thing was just too pat, too neat. Angels Round About,however, fleshes out the characters in their many dimensions, avoidsstereotypes, and builds a believable, and very readable, account.
Hilde's family life is horrible. Her father is a cheating liar, and isultimately divorced by Hilde's ever-patient mother. Mother, as she movesfrom the security of marriage to the uncertainties of life as a divorcee,becomes self-absorbed and vain, marginalizing Hilde's place in her life.When the missionaries appear at their door, Hilde's mother, Rosa, takes aninterest in this strange new religion. Hilde takes to it with enthusiasm.
Circumstances cause Hilde to separate from the Church for a while, but herheart leads her back eventually. But the distance between her and hermother is becoming greater and greater.
One of the more difficult themes is the relationship between Hilde and hermother. It is something of a love/hate relationship that is complex andpuzzling to the reader. Rosa's self-absorption, and (in my mind) herneglect of her daughter, provide a framework within which Hilde must growup, and do it quickly.
Nicholes does not spend a lot of time discussing Hitler and the Nazitakeover of Austria. It would have been easier to blame Hitler for theproblems, but the author chooses a different road, seeing Nazism as part ofthe problem, but not all of it. I admired her restraint; "blame the Nazis"would have been an easier path to take.
While reading the book, two diverse images came to mind. The firstwas the mention of Apostle Widtsoe and the European contact. I wasbrought back to a pleasant afternoon I spent some years ago in thehome of W. Cleon Skousen, in Salt Lake City, where he shared some ofhis own thoughts about his mission to Europe so many years ago. Hismission president was John A. Widtsoe. Hearing first-hand some ofthe wise and witty things this elder statesman had to say, brought theman to life in a way that mere reading could not accomplish. Now,encountering him once again as a real, flesh-and-blood person with apassion for people and an abundance of wisdom, I was nearly able totransport myself into the story and become a part of it.
The second memory was of reading a book many years ago titled "TheGreatest Quest." If memory serves me correctly, it was about a groupof non-Mormons who set out independently from each other to find theone true church. They all became Mormons, met up with each otherlater in life, and shared their experiences. We accompany them on thejourney, and find each person asking the same questions (using veryMormon vocabulary and word patterns). It was just not believable -- aperson who has never heard of Mormons, thinking and talking like aMormon! It was a totally unsatisfactory reading experience.
The present volume, on the other hand, presents people as they are.Mormons talk like Mormons; non-Mormons talk like non-Mormons. Thecharacters are flawed and fragile, but some manage to triumph overtheir challenges and emerge victorious.
Frankly, I was surprised that I liked this book so much. I generallydon't enjoy such stories, and try to read them only occasionally. I'mglad to be surprised from time to time.
Throughout the book, the author mentions certain foods with which thereader may not be familiar. She supplies recipes for these dishes inan appendix. Also, she mentions that this book is but the "middle" ofthe story. I'm guessing the "beginning" and "end" have not yet beenpublished, although her wording seems to indicate that these two otherbooks are a reality.
Thank you, Lorie H. Nicholes, for a pleasant reading experience, forattention to detail, and for an evident love of storytelling. I forone hope that Angels Round About is a reality in all our lives, notjust the title for a book.
© 2003 Jeff Needle <