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Book 151: "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer

Title: Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: True Crime, Non-Fiction
Read in: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

I'm honestly not sure where to start with this review. Having finished the book on Monday, I've been ruminating over it all week and trying to figure out exactly what to write about. It is definitely a good book; well-written, compelling, and (obviously) gets the reader thinking.

This non-fiction true crime book discusses the 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter Erica by Ron and Dan Lafferty (Brenda's brother-in-laws). The reasoning behind the brothers committing the murders is rooted deep in the history of Mormonism and their practice of Mormon Fundamentalism. Krakauer digs into the history and origin of the Mormon faith and the schisms of Fundamentalists it has since produced.

I will be honest that much of this book is terrifying. The history of Mormonism, much like any other mainstream religion, is rife with violence, cons, and murders in it's name (Let me be clear, I am NOT judging those of the Mormon faith or blaming the religion as a whole for these acts. Every religion has extremists that use their faith as an excuse to do abhorrent things.) Krakauer, who is atheist, is obviously biased against religion as a whole, so some of what is written does need to take that into account. However, in this edition, he has addressed a few facts that were incorrect, admitting them to be so and has since corrected them.

I really enjoy True Crime novels, however, they are harder to read. Just the fact that these people are real. That they did this horrendous thing, it makes a huge difference on how I read violence; and you well know that I read plenty of violent fiction books.

Mostly, at the end of this book, I felt sad. Sad that two lives were lost because they got in the way of two extremists who felt they had the right to take lives. Sad that there was no one in their life that they would respect enough and who had enough will to stop them from this crazy venture. I am unconvinced that Ron and Dan truly believed that the murder of Brenda and Erica was ordained by God- or if they convinced themselves of that at a later time. I also worry that some sort of un-diagnosed mental illness played a role; which also makes me sad.

The book is very well-written and definitely worth the read. I highly recommend it. If you have read it; I would love to know what you think!!


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