One of the best Christmas presents I found in my stocking was the debut novel from  writer and comedian Elna Baker. Well, when I say novel, it's actually a memoir, but some of the tales she tells are SO tall, you wonder how much of it really happened. But it must have happened, because you'd need a hell of an imagination to make this up.


The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance chronicles Elna's journey as she tries to reconcile her Mormon faith with being a young, single, beautiful girl in New York city. A kind of Carrie Bradshaw meets .. well, The Book of Mormon. Along the way, the aspiring actress has a series of hilarious jobs - including selling realistic baby dolls at FAO Schwartz and hostessing at Nobu. Elna is one of those people who is completely happy to laugh at herself, and leaves no scab unpicked in her search for personal comedy. The thread weaving through her life is reconciling sexual desire with her belief in no sex before marriage. Unless she can find the perfect Mormon male and get hitched.. she is never getting laid. Her world is constantly in turmoil as she battles that most existential of questions - which is more important? Orgasm or Our Lord?

What I liked most about the book is Elna's honesty about her beliefs and her willingness to laugh at herself. Most of all though, she never falls into the lazy trap of getting cheap laughs from religion. She never ridicules what people believe, and reading the book as a non-believer I felt uplifted by her refusal to just go 'what the hell' and leap into bed. The other thing about Elna is that she was a chubby kid, who lost a lot of weight and became incredibly conventionally beautiful. There is something about someone who's experienced that transformation which makes them hyper aware of physical things. Her description of her naked self in the bath was so honest, I felt like it had been written by my 14 year old self. So if you've ever had a crisis of faith, been a big girl who got small or decided that true love really does wait, then this is the book for you. Oh, and if you're a sex-loving atheist, you should enjoy it too!

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