Length: 304 pages
Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 47 minutes
First Published: 2023
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I have no desire to talk about religion on my blog, so I debated if I should even attempt to review Bad Mormon. However, as a professional book reviewer who attended BYU and has lived in Utah for over a decade, I feel uniquely qualified to give a fair review of Heather Gay’s bestselling memoir.
I will not be giving a star rating for this book. I’m not here to tell you how I felt about the book but to give you an idea about how you’ll likely feel reading Bad Mormon.
Utah businesswoman and reality star Heather Gay was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but publicly left the religion during the first season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. In her memoir, Gay discusses her faith journey and her departure from the LDS faith.
First off, let’s talk about the quality of the memoir. I thought Gay was a pretty good writer for an amateur. She uses an overabundance of pop culture references and she has a tendency toward repetition, especially when she is trying to make a point.
Some reviewers have complained that she is “playing the victim,” but I thought she was in line with every other celebrity memoir I’ve read. I feel that every memoir must be taken with a grain of salt because they are, by nature, only one side of a story. And humans always tend to paint themselves in, if not the best light, then at least a more flattering one.
Gay did a good job selecting moments of her life to illustrate her arguments, except when it came to her marriage. She talks about her incompatibility with her husband but only gives one example from her honeymoon, a story that wasn’t powerful enough to represent her point. As a reader, I wanted a few more details, but, as a woman, I respect her choice not to drag on the father of her children.
But what you actually want to know is if you should read Bad Mormon. And that depends on your relationship with Heather Gay and the LDS church. If you are an RHOSLC fan, then you’ll likely be disappointed. The RHOSLC content doesn’t come in until the very end and Gay gives background detail about the start of the show, but no juicy gossip about her castmates. Unfortunately, it’s the worst of both worlds. Housewives fans will be disappointed with the lack of gossip and non-Housewives fans will be bored by excessive detail.
If you decide to read Bad Mormon to learn more about the LDS church and the Mormon faith, it’s a mixed bag. Gay may gloss over her personal life, but she is very candid about her experience in the LDS Church. Gay was not a fringe LDS or an extremist; her life was very much in the realm of the typical mainstream Mormon experience. Although she tries to explain terms to laymen, you might get lost in the Mormon lingo and cultural references.
Active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will most likely be offended by Bad Mormon. Gay goes into minute detail about the religion, specifically about the temple ceremony that members hold very sacred. I won’t claim the book is 100% accurate, but it definitely has been fact-checked and is highly accurate, though obviously everything is viewed through a disillusioned lens.
The real target audience of Bad Mormon is individuals who consider themselves post-Mormon, specifically those who grew up in the LDS church and were “all in,” but then left as adults, generally after hitting the major milestones of college, mission, and/or marriage. Although their personal experiences will obviously vary from Gay’s in many regards, such readers will likely find Gay’s story highly relatable.
Straight off the slopes and into the spotlight, Heather Gay is famous for speaking the gospel truth. Whether as a businesswoman, mother, or television personality, she is unafraid to blaze a new trail, even if it means losing family, friends, and her community.
Born and bred to be devout, Heather based her life around her faith. She attended Brigham Young University, served a mission in France, and married into Mormon royalty in the temple. But her life as a good Mormon abruptly ended when she lost the marriage and faith that she had once believed would last forever.
With writing that is beautiful, sad, funny, and true, Heather recounts the difficult discovery of the darkness and damage that often exists behind a picture-perfect life, while examining the nuanced relationship between duty to self and duty to God. Exposing secrets she once held sacred, Bad Mormon is an unfiltered look at the religion that broke her heart.
About Heather Gay
Heather Gay is a star of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City and the founder of Beauty Lab + Laser, a cosmetic medical practice based in Salt Lake City with its own behind-the-scenes podcast Live Love Lab. A graduate of Brigham Young University, Heather currently lives in Salt Lake City.