This is a decent book if you enjoy memoirs of basically privileged people finding themselves. But it seems a little padded with material that isn’t quite on point for its stated subject matter, while keeping rather quiet about some of the material that is.
Nicole Hardy was raised Mormon, and overall was happy with the ordered life the church prescribed, but the older she got, the more a problem presented itself. The Mormon church is very opposed to sex before marriage, while simultaneously holding a very traditional view of gender roles, in which a woman’s highest spiritual purpose is to marry and have children. People marry young, and women are expected to subordinate their lives and careers to those of their husbands. But Hardy found herself graduating BYU without a husband lined up, and eventually realized that despite the church’s insistence, motherhood didn’t appeal to her.
This lack of orthodoxy and her independent lifestyle made Hardy a mismatch with Mormon men, while her continued belief in celibacy until marriage put a damper on relationships with others. The book follows her journey of self-discovery from insular beginnings (though she grew up in Seattle, she didn’t realize people could choose not to have children), through leaving her teaching career to pursue writing, through various relationships and international travels, until she finally breaks with the church and has sex at the age of 36.
I’d previously read about the Mormon marriage crisis, in a fascinating article that explores demographic shifts that make it harder for many American women to find a husband (in mainstream society, it’s that more women than men are earning college degrees; for Mormons, it’s that more men than women leave the church). Oddly, though, Hardy doesn’t address this bigger picture at all, nor does she seem to believe that there are more Mormon women than men; instead, she feels alone in her singlehood.
Oddly too, for someone whose life was directed by religion, she doesn’t actually talk much about Mormonism. I was a little surprised by how absent religion is from her portrayal of her inner life during her time in the church: she doesn’t talk about things like praying over big decisions, or about any hole left in her life when she leaves, a decision that has no clear build-up. And there’s very little here about Mormon beliefs or practices. She’s defensive about the use of terms like “magic underwear,” leading me to believe she’s being careful not to dish on her family’s religion. But a little more information might have been warranted: when she compares church services in her singles congregation to speed dating, for instance, I was confused, wondering how the one could resemble the other. Finally, she doesn’t discuss any sexual hang-ups or difficulties, apparently experiencing no barriers other than religious dictates to a fun and busy sex life.
Meanwhile, the book is padded out with other aspects of the author’s life: her writing program, travels, scuba diving, etc. Overall, despite the fact that Hardy clearly found her situation painful and confusing for much of her 20s and 30s, her memoir is pretty lightweight. She’s a good writer and it was a quick read, but it isn’t one I’d suggest you go out of your way for unless you personally relate. It did help me make a little more sense of life decisions I’ve seen from Mormons and ex-Mormons, though.