Just now when I was writing up the keywords for this post, one of them was “novels with rats as main characters.” I think that is a first for this blog. And it will be a first for many Mormon readers as well, but can I just say . . . trust me? Trust me. Gilda Trillim: Shepherdess of Rats is worth the risk of your time.
If not, you can send the rats after me.
So here’s an interview with Steven L. Peck: BYU biologist by day, novelist by night. And one of my favorite stars in the constellation of Mormon creativity. — JKR
RNS: I loved the new book, but it’s so hard to describe it to people. I’ll say things like, “This is this amazing, beautiful novel . . .” and then I get sort of stuck. I can’t even tell them the basic plot because it’s about a champion Mormon badminton player who gets taken as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and winds up starting a choir with a group of jailhouse rats. It’s, um, different.
Peck: A lot of my books are that way. The moment you start talking about two-headed cowboys, you sort of lose your credibility.
This book, for me, meant more than just writing the story, because I actually was trying to think through some of the real issues I have with theology. I think Gilda Trillim was an exercise in trying to understand what my theology means on an existential scale, which just sounds pretentious, but what I mean is how my belief explores how novelty enters the universe.
For me, as Gilda Trillim developed her relationship with the rats while she was a POW in Vietnam, she created something so new and so unlikely there was no reason it ever had to come into existence. But when it did, it added to the beauty and wonder of the universe. And so she became a vehicle for exploring those kinds of novelties, including relationship novelties—how we form relationships, and how they create newness and wonder in the universe, and how relationships can deepen a life. It’s an amalgamation of science and the…