Author: Jon Krakauer
First Published: 2003
No. of Pages: 372
Synopsis (from B&N): "Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.
At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief."
[My note: In my opinion, this synopsis focuses on only one sensationalist part of this book and fails to mention how much of the book is dedicated to an objective history of the Mormon religion.]
Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction
Comments and Critique: I found this book fascinating. I know next to nothing about Mormonism, so the history provided was very educational. I know that the LDS Church had problems with this book (among others) and disputes the historical accuracy of some of the events described. I also know that people outside the Church have stated that the official Church history is sanitized and more interested in promoting peoples' faith than recording the truth of what happened. I don't profess to know which side is right, or if both are to some degree, but I tried to keep an open mind throughout.
The author's writing style is easy to read and the individuals he writes about, both historical and modern, are presented in very realistic ways. No one came across as two-dimensional. Any book dealing with religion is going to contain a certain amount of the author's personal biases, but I think Mr. Krakauer was generally fair and objective. He also made a point of stating the basics of his own beliefs, so that the reader was aware of any particular subjectivity and could take it into account.
Challenges: 999 (Dewey Decimal); A to Z (author "K"); Dewey Decimal (200 Religion); World Citizen (Culture/Anthropology)