I am so excited to join my first Cannonball Read! It’s funny that this will be my first book, as I don’t generally read a ton of non-fiction, so this isn’t exactly tone-setting. But it’s the first book I finished this year so it’s the review y’all are getting! Without further ado, here we go:
Until the age of 15, I was a part of what I consider an abusive cult: a particularly strict, particularly conservative sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was disfellowshipped (excommunicated) when I came out, and as awful as that was at the time, it’s a relief now to know how much indoctrination and potential abuse I avoided. I knew going in that reading Under the Banner of Heaven would remind me somewhat of the dangerous ideas that seem to be part of many fundamentalist Christian faiths, but I didn’t know exactly how extreme the misogyny and abuse in Mormon fundamentalism was until finishing Krakauer’s rageful, carefully researched denunciation of the dangers of religious extremism.<
In this work of non-fiction, Krakauer weaves the story of a man whose zealotry led him to murder a mother and her child in cold blood with the history of the Mormon church and if its fundamentalist offshoots, particularly those offshoots that used polygamy as a means of subjugating and controlling women and girls. The author does a great job of letting us know how these things are connected, and how a lifetime of being taught that women were lesser led an entire community to fail the victims. I have to say my favorite thing about the book was his barely concealed anger at so many people involved in this, including the occasional sarcastic quip: it’s refreshing to see a straight white dude so angry at the sexism in the system, instead of eliding that particular aspect of a situation. I would recommend this one to anyone, with the caveat that it will likely make you angry, disappointed, and cynical.