Wednesday, April 20, 2016
HIS RIGHT HAND by Mette Ivie Harrison
With The Bishop’s Wife Harrison introduced readers to a world that is probably unfamiliar to most of us - the historically patriarchal structure of the Mormon Church while at the same time creating Linda, a strong woman who boldly steps forward to see that justice is done.
With His Right Hand Linda not only finds a murder in her community but also a social issue that she feels needs greater understanding. The story opens at the annual bishopric dinner where she and her husband, Kurt, the LDS bishop of their ward in Draper, Utah are surprised and distressed by the controlling manner that Carl Ashby, Kurt’s second counselor, focuses on his wife, Emma. Kurt had chosen Carl to be his right hand man and thinks highly of him. He tends to dismiss Carl’s treatment of Emma, but Linda does not.
It is only a few nights later that Emma calls the couple to say she is worried about Carl as he has not come home from a church meeting. Kurt and Linda drive to the church where they find Carl in one of the offices - he is dead, apparently strangled by a woman’s scarf. Perhaps even more shocking is the autopsy report - Carl was transgender, biologically a woman. This revelation stuns Emma and her children who are adopted, Kurt, and the community. The church hierarchy wants to play down Carl’s background, considering it a scandal and a blot on the community.
Linda, however, has other ideas. She does her utmost to comfort Emma and her children while at the same time assisting the police in finding Carl’s killer. Could it have been someone from his former life? The community eventually seems to be no longer primarily concerned with who killed Carl, but how could Emma not have known? How did Carl hide this from his children, and why did no one notice his background while he served in the church’s leadership?
Harrison does an excellent job of portraying the agony felt by those who wish to believe in church doctrine yet by their nature conflict with it.