Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Author: Jon Krakauer
Number of Pages: 372
Genre: Nonfiction
Where I Got It: Barnes and Noble's website (hooray coupons!)

Because I still can't talk about the Spain debacle this morning, we're going to continue our recent trend of non-World Cup posts and go with a book review.

This book centers around brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty and the brutal double murder they committed in 1984 against their brother's wife and baby daughter under the claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. Woven through the events leading up to, during and after this horrible crime, Krakauer explains the development and beliefs of Fundamentalist Mormonism, of which the Lafferty brothers were members, and how it differs from mainstream Mormonism, particularly in the belief and practice of polygamy.

I was left with a lot of mixed emotions after reading this book even though I am certainly glad I read it. Call me naive/unworldly/innocent, but most of all I could not believe that this type of religious fanaticism exists in the United States in the year 2010. I mean have you seen the iPad? It is amazing to me that in this day and age and in what is supposed to be the most powerful and advanced country in the world, practicing polygamists still exist and innocent people are murdered in the name of religion. It kind of blew me away. I had to keep reminding myself that the events Krakauer described and the interviews he conducted were all taking place within the last 25 years, not the last 250 years.

Furthermore, I spent a lot of the book thinking and hoping I guess you could say that readers wouldn't lump mainstream Mormons in with this group of fundamentalists. My grandma's best friend is Mormon and my dad was raised right alongside them and their kids and went on camping trips and water skiing trips with them for as many summers as he can remember. They're very loving, caring and overall awesome people. I'll definitely say that I find Mormonism to be strange but the group that Krakauer centers his book around is a very different, very extreme, and very creepy group.

I highly recommend this book. Krakauer's research is extensive and includes first hand accounts from both Fundamentalist Mormons and those who have left the religion. There are a lot of characters - and I mean that both literally and figuratively - when discussing the history of Mormonism and Krakauer does a great job of keeping everyone straight. The book will certainly open your eyes and educate you, so do yourself a favor.

Coming Up Next: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
In this Pulitzer Prize winner, the first novel from author Junot Diaz focuses on Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim. Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss.

Bonus: Audio Book Reviews
I've been listening to a lot of audio books because I have a decent 25-30 minute commute to work every day and got rid of satellite radio so it's a nice way to fill the time. Here are some quick reviews:

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham - A third-string quarterback gets lit up in an NFL playoff game and is promptly released. No team in the NFL wants him, so he ends up playing for a team in Italy and loves it. With a good narrator and great storyline, I stayed engaged with this one all the way through. Two thumbs up.

Rosie Dunne by Cecilia Ahern - A chick-lit choice about Rosie and Alex, best friends who eventually realize they're in love with each other, but can't ever be in the right place at the right time to realize that love. Don't worry, everything works out in the end. This one used multiple voices to narrate which was a good choice I thought. The other strange part of the book is that it's written entirely in the form of emails, letters, instant messages, and I think text messages as Rosie and Alex and the rest of the characters all communicate with each other. They pulled it off in audio style. One thumb sideways for not much of a plot and for being too long.

Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich - Even though this book is one in a series featuring bounty hunter/detective Stephanie Plum, I was able to follow along without having ever read any of Evanovich's other books. Great narrator and a great mystery story about a crazy who steals Stephanie's coworker's identity, kidnaps his daughter, then seeks out Stephanie to complete his fantasy. Two thumbs up.

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