crowyhead, September 26, 2006 (view all comments by crowyhead)
An excellent nonfiction book exploring religious fanatacism. Krakauer chooses as his focus a particularly brutal murder that occurred in Utah in the early 80s, committed by two Mormon fundamentalists. Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica were murdered in 1984 by Ron and Dan Rafferty, her brothers-in-law, who believed God had ordered the murders. Krakauer relates the events leading up to the murder in meticulous detail, as well as providing a history of both mainstream Mormonism and the fundamentalist sects that exist alongside the official LDS church.
I expected that this would be a very well-researched and well-told story before I even began to read, being familiar with Krakauer's other excellent books. I wasn't disappointed. Krakauer remains carefully impartial, while raising profound questions about faith and fanatacism.
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by The News & Observer,
"Riveting....Intriguing....Breezy, smooth and vigorously written, this ambitious book is entertaining and informative....Krakauer reconstructs the Lafferty brothers' descent into fatal fanaticism magnificently, interweaving their story throughout the book and giving this wide-ranging work narrative coherence and emotional resonance....[He is] a superb storyteller."
by USA Today,
"Well-researched and evenhanded....Thought-provoking."
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 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 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
"Terrifying....Startling....Mov[es] deftly between past and present [and] provides a fascinating glimpse of the church today."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"Marvelous....A departure from Into Thin Air and Into the Wild...but every bit as engrossing."
by The Columbus Dispatch,
"A fascinating page-turner....Engrossing....Krakauer's knack for crackling narrative and taut focus...drives this thought-provoking story."
by San Jose Mercury News,
"A powerful look at how religious belief can cross the line into fanaticism."
by Chicago Sun-Times,
"A hair-raising true-crimer."
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 Americas fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.
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