The Conversion of Jeff Williams, winner of an Association of Mormon Letters Best Novel Award, is an intriguing book written by Douglas Thayer, the author of the novel Summer Fire and two collections of short stories, Mr. Wahlquist in Yellowstone and Under the Cottonwoods and Other Mormon Stories. Thayer’s most recent book is a coming-of-age novel narrated by Jeff Williams, a seventeen-year-old San Diego native who spends the summer in Provo with his seriously ill cousin, Christopher.
Three related plot lines run through the novel. The first explores Jeff’s relationship with Christopher and Christopher’s well-heeled parents. Jeff is initially reluctant to spend the summer with his Provo relatives. He admires their wealth, but he misses the beach, his erstwhile girlfriend, and his parents’ more relaxed approach to religion. As the summer progresses, however, Jeff becomes less infatuated with money, learns to love Christopher, and begins—for the first time in half a decade—to pray with real intent. When a massive pulmonary embolism strikes Christopher, Jeff struggles valiantly to save his cousin’s life. And after Christopher dies, Jeff experiences shock, grief, and a deeper appreciation of the gospel promises of rebirth and resurrection.