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Review: Under the Banner of Heaven

March 15, 2016

Under the Banner of Heaven

After listening to Missoula, I knew I wanted another narrative non-fiction audio book and Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith seemed like the logical choice since it was written by Jon Krakauer as well.  Krakauer set out to write a book about religious beliefs and focused on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon church) since he grew up in Utah and was somewhat familiar with the church.  As he conducted his research, he discovered more than he bargained for and ended up focusing on religious fanaticism instead.

There are three threads woven throughout Under the Banner of Heaven:

  • The senseless murders of Brenda Lafferty and her fifteen month old daughter
  • The history of the Mormon church, starting with its founder, Joseph Smith
  • The many splinter groups of the Mormon church, particularly the FLDS

This fascinating book was hard to put down!  I have to admit that I found the particulars of the history of the church the least interesting, since I knew much of it already, but it didn’t really matter because Krakauer did an expert job of weaving the three aspects of the story together.  He opens the book with Lafferty’s murder, which was an act of religious fanaticism, and examines the twisted logic behind it.

Under the Banner of Heaven is captivating and disturbing at the same time.  I’ve always been fascinated by religious cults and fanatics so it was a perfect match for me.  As you would expect, Krakauer’s research is outstanding and his writing is engaging.  Scott Brick did an outstanding job narrating the audio version of the book.  Pick this book up if you enjoy nonfiction, history, or books on religion.

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2016 6:37 am

    I’ve read just one book about the Mormon church which focused on its elders and found it very disturbing. Not again. For me.

  2. March 15, 2016 6:55 am

    I need to read these two books by Krakauer! I’ve heard nothing but great things about both.

    Have you read The 19th Wife by David Ebbershoff? That was a good audiobook about Brigham Young and the Mormon church.

  3. March 15, 2016 7:03 am

    I really liked this book but it still gives me nightmares!

  4. purplemoonmyst permalink
    March 15, 2016 7:05 am

    I have always meant to read this book. It seems to get away from me every time i check it out of the library. One day!

  5. March 15, 2016 8:29 am

    I think this book is on a shelf in our house somewhere – one of the kids read it when it first came out. The author seems to have a gift for presenting difficult topics. I’d have to be in the right mood for it but it sounds like a compelling audiobook.

  6. March 15, 2016 8:35 am

    I loved this one – so fascinating! Have you read Going Clear by Lawrence Wright? It’s similar, but about Scientology.

  7. March 15, 2016 8:46 am

    I’ve read this author’s INTO THIN AIR many years ago and loved it. I keep meaning to read this one and also MISSOULA. I suspect both will be good reads for me.

  8. March 15, 2016 9:25 am

    This sounds like a good one. I may have to get this into my TBR pile.

  9. March 15, 2016 9:35 am

    Krakauer has written some great books! I read this several years ago with my book club… it was quite a discussion.

  10. March 15, 2016 9:57 am

    I’ve heard great things about this book! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  11. March 15, 2016 10:19 am

    I read this one so long ago but remember having much the same reaction as well. I need to listen to this on audio some day!

  12. Patty permalink
    March 15, 2016 10:27 am

    I love that you loved this book but it is not in any of my required catalogs. I appreciate knowing about it, though. I actually think I read one of his books a long time ago…

  13. March 15, 2016 11:50 am

    My son was Mormon and then left the church last year. I read this book before he joined the church but I’d like to read it again, knowing what I know now.

  14. March 15, 2016 12:26 pm

    I’ve now read two books by Krakauer, Into the Wild and most recently Missoula, and he’s a great non-fiction author! He makes facts and reporting interesting to the average person. I would like to read this and Three Cups of Deceit. I have Into Thin Air in my house because my son bought it. He really enjoyed that one so that one will be on my reading list soon.

    I don’t like to read books slamming any religions because I believe to each his own, so any derogatory comments in books I take with a grain of salt. As to the above mentions of Scientology: I’ve read 3 books on it: Going Clear; a book written by the niece of the current main leader; and the Leah Remini book; also saw a tv special about it. I think it’s a belief-system, yes, but not religious, but that is my own personal opinion here. We used to live in FL not far from their headquarters in Clearwater and it was constantly in the news there so I gathered quite a bit of knowledge about it. I know bloggers don’t like to chat about religion, politics, and money, so I’ll stop now 🙂

  15. March 15, 2016 12:28 pm

    I am fascinated with the inner workings of the religion, especially after I became hooked on the HBO series a while back called Big Love.

    Thanks for sharing…and I might just have to pick this one up.

  16. March 15, 2016 4:04 pm

    I am trying to remember if I had picked up this book or not. But I can’t recollect. Either way, I have this one to listen to and I love Krakauer’s books so I will have to make time for this.

  17. March 15, 2016 4:08 pm

    This sounds like an interesting read.

  18. March 15, 2016 5:33 pm

    I keep running into this book at the shop. I may have to buy it after this review.

  19. March 15, 2016 5:38 pm

    Wanna read it because Krakauer and also I’m addicted to Sister Wives (FLDS). Ha!

  20. March 15, 2016 9:09 pm

    Your review made me want to read this book so I checked and my library has it via electronic resource so I added it to my “want to read” folder.

  21. March 16, 2016 7:46 am

    I’ve often thought about reading this but never did. For some reason I never thought of looking for it on audio! The Mormon religion is foreign to me and therefore fascinating, probably the way Catholicism (which is very prevalent in my neck of the woods) seems so strange and crazy to people from areas where it isn’t common!

  22. March 16, 2016 9:40 am

    I love this book! I read it when I was a sophomore in college. Krakauer’s writing is superb. Glad to hear that they did a good job with casting the narrator.

    I still need to read (or listen to) Missoula.

  23. March 16, 2016 12:03 pm

    This sounds fascinating as does Missoula. I haven’t read anything by the author, but it looks like I’m about to change that. Thanks Kathy.

  24. March 16, 2016 12:50 pm

    I read this one years ago and it made me realize how incredibly talented Krakauer is. Eventually I hope to read all of his books.

  25. March 16, 2016 10:32 pm

    The Hubster and I both thought this was fascinating. I agree that Krakauer did a great job of weaving the three threads of story together. I still giggle though because for several weeks The Hubster would come in and tell me “I’ve had a revelation!!”

  26. Literary Feline permalink
    March 18, 2016 2:47 pm

    I am so glad you liked this one, Kathy. It was my first Krakauer book and really made an impression on me.

  27. March 18, 2016 10:21 pm

    I have several friends who are Mormons but the more I learned about John Smith (he was settled in this area of Ohio for awhile) the less I wanted to know. Glad that you enjoyed it 🙂

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