Baptists at Our Barbecue

In Smith’s debut novel, his pretty-boy park ranger protagonist, Tartan Jones, flees the double trouble of pressure to wed and rumors that his unattached state reflects an interest in an “alternate lifestyle.” To escape his lifelong Utah home, Tartan accepts an obscure assignment elsewhere in the Southwest. With wry humor and empathetic condescension toward the local yokels, our hero chronicles his struggles in love and culture shock in the twisted little town of Longfellow. This community’s most volatile problem is sectarian strife between Mormon’s and Baptists, who vie for demographic dominance while rejoicing in each scale-tipping arrival or departure that benefits their camp. However, the novel’s Mormon’s also spend plenty of time squabbling among themselves. The Baptists presumably do as well, but we see little of them, despite the book’s title.

This novel is very funny. This reader sustained a smirk throughout most of the book, chuckled about every three pages, and out and out busted up every twenty pages or so. Smith’s style is engaging and clear.

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