3 out of 4 stars
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Toward Happier Choices by Michael Oborn is a quasi-memoir. The book is split into three sections: “Short Stories,” “Potpourri,” and “Exceptional People.” The first section is a collection of vignettes depicting events that played a role in the author's decision to leave the Mormon Church and seek out a different way of life. The second section is a collection of musings, opinions, and beliefs. Finally, “Exceptional People” includes five essays about individuals who have greatly influenced the author in one way or another. Throughout the entire book, Oborn revisits his conclusions about the Mormon Church.
From the very first page to the last, the author’s voice shines throughout the narrative. I was quickly enamored with Oborn’s storytelling; it is his expert use of retrospection that makes this book truly engaging, especially in the “Short Stories” section. The stories Oborn chooses to share are interesting, but it is his newfound point of view used in the telling of each story that provides readers with clarity and understanding of the impact these various events had on the author’s life.
The essays found in “Exceptional People” were just as impressive. In this section, Oborn’s prose is impassioned. My favorite essay, “Gina Sue,” is a poignant telling of Oborn’s current relationship; he discusses Gina Sue with eloquence and depth. I was pleasantly surprised by the intimate picture Oborn paints in this essay. After reading the majority of the book, I felt I knew a lot about the author’s life, opinions, and ideals; however, it was “Gina Sue,” which comes at the very end, that truly made me connect with the author on a spiritual level.
Unlike the clear focus of the first and third sections, the second part of the book, as the title “Potpourri” suggests, is a mix of random ideas and beliefs. This section lacked the engaging storytelling found in “Short Stories” and the intimate observations of “Exceptional People.” Some of the chapters in this section are incredibly short, like one about the author’s opinion of abortion, which is only three paragraphs. Although a lot of what Oborn has to say in this section is interesting, “Potpourri” lacked the depth and personal connection apparent in the rest of the book.
Despite Oborn’s enjoyable prose, Toward Happier Choices is in need of professional editing. The narrative contains a plethora of errors, including missing commas, incorrect word usage, and improper sentence structure. Although these errors did not significantly detract from the narrative, they were glaringly obvious. Due to the grammatical errors and lack of focus in the second section of the book, I rate Toward Happier Choices 3 out of 4 stars. With professional editing and reconsideration of the second section, Toward Happier Choices will be a stand-out work. For now, I recommend this book to readers interested in memoirs about reformed Mormons and reader’s interested in gaining a new perspective on life.
Toward Happier Choices
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