In this stunning debut, Shawn Vestal transports us to the afterlife, the rugged Northwest, and the early days of Mormonism. From “The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death”, an absurd, profound vision of a hellish heaven, to “Winter Elders”, in which missionaries calmly and relentlessly pursue a man who has left the fold, these nine stories illuminate the articles of faith that make us human.
The concluding triptych tackles the legends and legacy of Mormonism head-on, culminating in “Diviner”, a seriocomic portrait of the young Joseph Smith, back when he was not yet the founder of a religion but a man hired to find buried treasure. Godforsaken Idaho is an indelible collection by the writer you need to explore next.
©2013 Shawn Vestal (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I'm writing this partway through but I'm still haunted by the opening story. While there is nothing about this that feels bound to southern idaho the setting and attendant details are dead on. I know because i grew up there.
I would have given this collection of short stories a better review if the last 3 stories in the collection were not such an ordeal to finish. But the collection starts off great (the opening story is a fascinating/sad/funny vision of heaven) and is followed by some good stories with well realized (sometimes unlikeable) characters.
The book covers the modern US urban/smalltown west of Idaho and Utah (which is not given much coverage in contemporary literature) and also gives an interesting portrait of Mormons (ex-Mormons) that rarely moves into over characterization or grotesque.
Hardly in the same league as the latest collection by George Saunders but worth a look if you are interested in the short story genre/stories set in Idaho/the Mormon/ex-Mormon experience.
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