under the banner of heaven

Hi friends! The next couple of reviews might be a little shorter than the ones that you’re used to reading. I’m still desperately working on catching up to my current reads, so thank you for being patient with me. Enjoy!

Synopsis & Quick Thoughts

Under the Banner of Heaven is a non-fiction title by author Jon Krakauer, who wrote one of my favorite non-fiction books, Into Thin Air. This time, Krakauer covers the true crime story of Rob and Dan Lafferty, who believed they received a commandment from God to kill a woman and her newborn child. Underneath the surface is an exploration of Mormon Fundamentalism and the extreme lengths people will go to in the name of religious belief.

Uhhh…this book made me feel lots of things. Although well-written and thoroughly researched, it felt long-winded, often confusing, and poorly juxtaposed. I felt like I learned a lot but was very overwhelmed at every twist and turn. I think I ultimately have positive feelings about this book, but it’s complicated.

Positives

I really, really dig Krakauer’s journalistic writing style. Although the prose may come off a little dry at times, it’s clear Krakauer has put a lot of time, effort, and care into constructing his narratives, and that in and of itself makes this book a compelling read.

As a huge true crime fan, my favorite part of this book was the plotline that explored the Lafferty brothers and their story, crime, and the fallout thereof. These retellings were handled tactfully but in a captivating way. Overall, I felt I learned something new and enjoyed my time reading.

Negatives

The biggest drawback to this book was the confusing timelines and content leaps from chapter to chapter. The plot jumps around between the history of the LDS church, different offshoots of fundamentalist Mormonism, and the Lafferty murder case. At times it can become hard to follow and keep the stories straight, especially with the large cast of characters present in each plotline. It feels like Under the Banner of Heaven was trying to be too much at once. While I acknowledge that each of these sections provide an important element of the story, it was just…too much. The attempt to be good at explaining everything resulted in a lack of the book being thorough in any one element.

Rating & Final Thoughts

I’m going to give Under the Banner of Heaven 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you can get past the confusing nature of the structure of this book, I would recommend it. I think it’s an interesting look into religious extremism, and I always enjoy a good true crime retelling. Although I wish this book covered more of the trial and fallout of the crime, I enjoyed the experience of reading and will continue to read more from Krakauer in the future.

Buy Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer here.*

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