In My Father's House are Many Mansions

Kruger, Naomi orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0194-8333 (2023) In My Father's House are Many Mansions. Galley Beggar Press.

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‘In My Father’s House are Many Mansions’ is a short story set on one Sunday in a chapel in Lancashire, exploring some of the limits and complexities of British Mormon identity.
As newly married Keeley listens to a sermon about the Parable of the Ten Virgins, she becomes fixated on her own inadequacy as a wife and increasingly convinced that she doesn’t want to have children. Fascinated by the dynamics of the Mormon history of polygamy, and tasked by her husband with looking after a badly behaved teenager who dares her to deface a painting of Jesus, Keeley finds unexpected relief in the idea of an afterlife where she can pass her duties on to an imagined sister-wife and retreat into longed-for solitude.

Most representations of Mormon culture in fiction and in the wider media are (unsurprisingly) centred on the US experience. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still has its headquarters in Utah (and much of the organisation of the church is standardised and US-centric), it is also a global church with congregations throughout the world. These communities are often very small, and this minority experience, alongside teachings of religious exceptionalism, can create an increased sense of insularity in members.
The story explores issues of religious patriarchy, childlessness, and the troubling legacy of historical polygamy in a subtle, character-driven way. The power dynamics and distinctive customs of this community are shown in the depiction of place and ritual as well as through Keeley’s thoughts and longings. However much she tries to please the people around her, she never quite manages to do quite what is expected. In the end, her desperation to please will lead to a shocking act, and an overwhelming desire to escape the bounded expectations placed on her by her high-demand religious community.

‘In My Father’s House are Many Mansions’ was one of three shortlisted entries for the Galley Beggar Press Short Fiction competition 23/24 out of 1,400 initial entries. It was published on the Galley Beggar Press website along with an in-depth author interview. Galley Beggar co-director and prize judge Eloise Millar commented that the story is “beautifully balanced and piercing. We get all kinds of quick, sharp insights into the protagonist’s public and home life. We are in the room with her and in her head. We feel - emotionally and physically - the discomfort and pain she experiences. It is a lesson in empathy and clarity. It is wonderful.”

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