The Fly On The Rose by Elizabeth Petty Bentley
Published by America House, Baltimore, 265 pages, $21.95
Reviewed by Jennie Hansen
Temple plays a dangerous game, visiting supper clubs and restaurants to carry on silent flirtations with men attracted to her glamorous, come-hither image. She never leaves with any of her admirers or even speaks to them. She doesn’t visit the same place twice and the men never know she is a deaf, divorced mother of two young daughters. She is also a lonely, but devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Living alone, barred from ever seeing or communicating with her daughters, and finding herself in a new ward where she doesn’t know anyone well, she plays out a fantasy game to prove to herself that she is still attractive and desirable.
Q is way beyond homely; he’s downright ugly, but he has dreams and when Temple plays her little game at a restaurant where he regularly stops for dinner, he is smitten. He returns over and over hoping to see her again, but it isn’t until the night of a family gathering when he learns his uncle wants him to give his cousin their grandmother’s ring to use as an engagement ring– since there’s no chance Q will ever find a woman willing to marry him-that he sees Temple again. He puts the ring in his pocket and heads for the restaurant where he commences to drown his sorrow. That’s when Temple makes the mistake of breaking her own rule of never stopping at the same restaurant twice. She doesn’t think she’ll be recognized since she goes, not as Temple, but as plain Mary Jane. Q, who has had too much to drink, fumbles through a clumsy proposal she doesn’t hear and forces the ring onto her finger. She’s unable to get it off and thus begins a one-sided romance and a lot of heartache for both Q and Temple.
When Q and Temple marry, she’s glad he isn’t a member of the Church because her divorce from her first husband was civil only and she believes that if she gets a cancellation of her temple marriage, she’ll truly lose her little girls forever. Q loves her deeply, but she was too severely traumatized by her former husband’s vicious manipulations and the accident that took her hearing to allow herself to return his love. Through no effort on Temple’s part, Q joins the Church and trouble starts when he learns of her previous marriage and begins asking questions about who his and Temple’s sons are sealed to.
Several points concerning Temple’s divorce, her failure to tell Q she has daughters, and her reluctance to seek cancellation of her temple marriage stretches the limits of the reader’s ability to suspend reality. Still, Temple is a character that stirs the reader’s sympathy even while she leaves questions concerning her failure to secure a good attorney or seek advice from her bishop concerning her eternal parental status. She is also too self-absorbed and too needy to be seen entirely as a character the reader can sympathize with.
The Fly on the Rose is not quite like other LDS novels. Though the author, Elizabeth Bentley is a member of the Church, the book was not published or edited by any of the well-known LDS publishing houses. And though never crude, some subject matter is dealt with more bluntly than readers may expect. I didn’t find it offensive, though I think a softer approach to elements of physical attraction would have served the story better. Doctrinal verification of her concepts concerning the cancellation of sealings would have lent her story greater strength and much more could have been said concerning worthiness and faith in obtaining the realization of temple blessings and ordinances.
The cover takes the title a little too literally by depicting a much too realistic fly crawling across a pink and yellow rose. The combination is not appealing and may actually discourage browsers from picking up the book to read the back liner, which is too bad since the book presents some interesting dilemmas, holds the reader’s interest, and broaches a subject that hasn’t been explored in great depth by many writers.
I enjoyed reading the book and hope to see future books by Sister Bentley. Her style is comfortable and her subject matter thought-provoking.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.