A glorious debut that T.C. Boyle calls “powerful and deeply moving” that follows two young Mormon missionaries in Brazil and their tense, peculiar friendship.
Elder McLeod—outspoken, surly, a brash American—is nearing the end of his mission in Brazil. For nearly two years he has spent his days studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon, knocking on doors, teaching missionary lessons—“experimenting on the word.” His new partner is Elder Passos, a devout, ambitious Brazilian who found salvation and solace in the church after his mother’s early death. The two men are at first suspicious of each other, and their work together is frustrating, fruitless. That changes when a beautiful woman and her husband offer the missionaries a chance to be heard, to put all of their practice to good use, to test the mettle of their faith. But before they can bring the couple to baptism, they must confront their own long-held beliefs and doubts, and the simmering tensions at the heart of their friendship.
A novel of unsparing honesty and beauty, Elders announces Ryan McIlvain as a writer of enormous talent.
When I first picked this book up to read for review, I was expecting something completely different from what I actually got with this book. I thought I would be getting a story about two missionaries and their struggles on their mission and while I did get that, the story that I was expecting wasn’t the gritty, honest story that I read.
Growing up in the Mormon Church, I heard it all. I heard the surprise in people’s voices when they found out that I was Mormon because I’m so “normal” and I heard all the questions and teasing about not being able to drink coffee and multiple wives and so on. A huge part of my testimony growing up stemmed from what my parents thought and believed to be true and reading this book brought back a lot of memories of myself when I was going through the whole doubting phase of my life.
Elder McLeod is an American missionary serving in Brazil. He’s very outspoken and brash and kind of reminded me of the guys before they left on their missions. Elder Passos is more reserved, more staunch in his beliefs and these two missionary companions are as different as night and day and their struggles were significantly different but I thought they were both interesting characters.
This story wasn’t an easy story to read, reading it from my own personal experiences with the Mormon Church. There was a lot of honesty in the struggles that both Elders went through and sometimes, a lot of that honesty was hard to read. These two guys weren’t perfect and this book highlights those imperfections. It covered a lot of everyday things that aren’t a big deal to the everyday person but are to members of the Mormon Church who expect more from their members.
Overall, it was a story that was at times compelling but there were many times when it was so easy for me to put the story down for many different reasons. I could only take McLeod and Passos in small doses because while they were interesting, they were also very annoying throughout a lot of the story but in the end, I’m not mad that I read this book. I don’t think it’ll sit well with other Mormon readers but I will say that it was an interesting read.
…and that’s your scoop!
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Book cover and blurb credit: http://goodreads.com