The Book of Abish Is Here


As BCC has already proved with math, the Book of Mormon does not pass the Bechdel Test. In fact, it doesn’t even qualify to sit for the Bechdel Test. It doesn’t have two named female characters who talk to each other about anything. It doesn’t even have two named female characters who are alive at the same time or part of the same story. Only three women in the book even have names at all, and these three never come near each other.

But do you know what does pass the Bechdel Test? Mette Harrison’s new Book-of-Mormon themed novel, The Book of Abish (Kindle edition here), that’s what. It passes it in the first chapter and then keeps on passing it, on almost every page, until the last chapter. That’s because the whole point of The Book of Abish is to give the women of the book of Mormon their own stories–and their own names. And it is available from BCC Press today.

Abish, as you probably already know, is the most interesting named female character in the Book of Mormon. It’s a low bar, we know, since there are only three of them. And the other two are familiar types. Sariah is the mother-type. She worries about her children, has more of them in the desert, obeys her husband, and then slips away without making a fuss. Her name is only used four times in the text, and one of those is in a dream.

The third named woman, Isabel, is a type too: the harlot. In fact, she is not even Isabel. She is “the harlot Isabel” (Alma 39:3) at whose feet is laid the corruption of Corianton.

But Abish is something different: a Lamanite woman who serves the Lamanite King–who is also a Christian, in a land where there are no Christians, “on account of a remarkable vision of her father” (Alma 19:16). When King Lamoni falls to the earth under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Abish is the only one in the palace who knows what is going on, other than Ammon, who, without her intervention, would probably have been executed for bewitching the King. Abish saves the story, and her people, and the life of the guy who is supposed to be the hero.

But who is she? Who was her father? How did a Lamanite woman laboring under the much-maligned “traditions of her fathers” become converted to the religion of her people’s greatest enemies? Why do we know so little about one of the Book of Mormon’s most important and remarkable characters? And what kind of culture doesn’t even manage to remember the name of more than three women in a period of a thousand years?

You will have to read the book. But, to get you started, here is the author’s Prologue. You won’t be disappointed.


And while you are at it, check out Mette Harrison’s other books with BCC Press: The Book of Laman and Vampires in the Temple. Or maybe check out her nationally bestselling mystery series starting with The Bishop’s Wife. Or download Porch Steps, Mette’s collection of essays on Mormons and Mormonism. Or any of the other books she has published. Learn why BCC Press is so proud to publish the work of one of the Mormon world’s most distinctive and powerful voices.

Comments

  1. Another thing that sticks out about Alma 19 is that while it contains one of the few named women in the Book of Mormon, it’s a rarity in that it actually contains two female characters — the other being the (sadly unnamed) queen of the Lamanites, who is actually the first of the unconscious party with whom Abish interacts. I’ll have to see about reading Mette Harrison’s take on it! :)

  2. There are four women named, actually (I had the snotty pleasure of correcting by BYU BoM professor on this, back in the day). The fourth is Mary, in Alma 7:10.

  3. Technically, TJE, a total of six women are mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but only three of them (Sariah, Isabel and Abish) are actual characters within the Book of Mormon narrative, which is what I believe the post was getting at. Mary (Mosiah 3:8; Alma 7:10), Eve (1 Nephi 5:11; 2 Nephi 2:18-19), and Sarah (2 Nephi 8:2) are all referred to, but their stories are told elsewhere.

  4. emilyhgeddes says:

    I recently finished “The Book of Laman” and I’m excited for this new offering of Mette’s – just ordered my copy!

  5. violadiva says:

    Awesome! Can we review it at the Exponent blog?
    Send me a message at exponentblog at gmail dot com

  6. TJE and emig,

    And if we want to be super-technical, seven. 2 Nephi 8:9 includes Isaiah’s allusion to Rahab by name.

    So you know, lots. Binders full.

    Loved the posted excerpt!