Amber Black, June 5, 2013 (view all comments by Amber Black)
Despite being a little outdated (mainly due to the massive upheaval in the FLDS in recent years), the history of these groups has not changed since 2003-2004. I found this to be a good primer on the beliefs and history of the LDS and FLDS churches, especially from a non-LDS perspective. In most respects, I found it to be a fairly balanced and well-researched treatise on the topic, despite the scathing review from Elder Turley of the mainline LDS church reproduced in the appendix. Krakauer's response was levelheaded and reflected some of my own views on the Mormon leadership's stance towards willful obfuscation and ignorance. I do not feel like this book reflected a negative view of most mainline Mormons at all, in fact, my enhanced understanding of their beliefs only helps me appreciate their religious point-of-view more fully. I am offended by the accusation of Elder Turley that I am one of those "gullible persons who rise to such bait like trout to a fly hook," just because I do not buy the LDS story hook, line, and sinker.
If you read this hoping for true crime, you will be fairly disappointed. Rather it takes an outrageous crime and tries to put it in the perspective of history, social forces, family drama, and religious fanaticism. There is no discussion of crime scene evidence or victim's perspective or any of the other typical trappings of the true crime genre.
The narrative does meander a bit and some parts did not flow well (the Elizabeth Smart section in particular seemed to come from nowhere and have little relevance later). Besides that, this is an engrossing study of Mormon Fundamentalism and Mormon history from the perspective of an outsider with a respectful and balanced view. I value outsider perspectives as much as perspectives from the faithful for the well-rounded view they advance, but there seem woeful few modern, non-academic Mormon histories written by someone with no stake in the LDS or FLDS (either as an active or excommunicated member, or some raised in the religion). While the LDS leadership may not like it, I think it's important to remember no one operates in a vacuum, religious groups least of all.
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[T]old with raw narrative force and tight focus....Krakauer lays the portent on beautifully, building his tales carefully from the ground up until they irresistibly, spookily combust."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"Marvelous....A departure from Into Thin Air and Into the Wild...but every bit as engrossing."
by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
"Terrifying....Startling....Mov[es] deftly between past and present [and] provides a fascinating glimpse of the church today."
by Edward Morris, BookPage,
"[A] probing narrative....[Krakauer's] insightful book brings readers closer to an understanding of [the Mormon] religion....[A] first-rate work of nonfiction from one of our most intrepid reporters."
by Janet Maslin, The New York Times,
"In collecting evidence, Mr. Krakauer ventures out to a lunatic fringe of polygamous self-appointed prophets....[T]his book provides more voyeuristic astonishment than curiosity or understanding."
by USA Today,
"Well-researched and evenhanded....Thought-provoking."
Includes bibliographical references (p. -358) and index.
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