A Little Lower than the Angels
Signature Mormon Classics Series No. 1
by Virginia Sorensen
Mary Lythgoe Bradford, foreword
Paperback / 468 pages / 1-56085-103-1 / $14.95
When A Little Lower than the Angels appeared in 1942, its author and recent Brigham Young University graduate Virginia Sorensen was overwhelmed by the positive national attention. Clifton Fadiman, writing for The New Yorker, noted how “convincingly [she] explores . . . the tragic, comic, and grotesque problems of plural marriage.”
Set in Nauvoo, Illinois, she tells the story of a single family, a woman and her Mormon husband, loosely based on her in-laws’ family history from the period and augmented by on-site research. The novel preceeded the first scholarly treatment of Nauvoo by three years.
As an outsider, Sorensen’s protagonist is puzzled by the city’s mysteries. Gradually, however, she discovers that a neighbor’s obsession with the LDS prophet is due to her polygamous marriage to him. Even so, Mercy Baker cannot foresee the complications that her own baptism will bring.
Virginia Sorensen was born in Provo, Utah, and lived much of her adult life in Morocco and Florida with her husband, British novelist Alec Waugh. She is the distinguished author of eight novels (see, for instance, The Evening and the Morning), a collection of short stories (Where Nothing Is Long Ago: Memories of a Mormon Childhood), and as many children’s books; and winner of the Newberry Medal, an O. Henry award, and two Guggenheim fellowships. She spent a lifetime telling stories, many of which she offered to her Mormon community as their own. Literary critics have hailed her as “Utah’s First Lady of Letters.” She died in 1991.