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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Righteous by Michael Wallace

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of The Righteous:


Well, I’m not quite sure what to make of this book.  It’s certainly a serviceable mystery/thriller with many religious overtones.  The author, whose bio says was raised in the desert, “raised in a small religious community in Utah,” (close to the FLDS?) has a lot of very interesting and supposedly secret details of sealing ceremonies and the inside of a splinter Mormon polygamist community.

The book does seem to go off the rails a bit with a wildly improbable plot twist that wasn’t necessary (hence three instead of four stars) and detracted from the main story.. The issues raised with regard to who and what is righteous and where does religious authority come from are interesting enough. Jacob, off at medical school, is recalled by his father, an elder in the Blister Creek Church. to return and investigate the ritualistic murder of Amanda. He, a skeptic or rationalist of sorts, refuses to be buffaloed by the mythic traditions of his church but retains allegiance to his family, a connection which would  lost should he abandon the church entirely. Had Wallace pursued these threads, I think the book would have been stronger and more interesting. He handles some of the issues quite sensitively but then goes off on this ridiculous plot twist that remains unresolved in the end, awaiting book #2 in the series, which I will probably read, if for no other reason than morbid curiosity into the religious silliness.

You do get a nice sense of what it must be like to live as an outcast constantly at war with the “evil” world and trying to determine what constitutes valid revelation from plain insanity (or silliness.)  A couple of reviewers on Amazon (one-star reviews) have suggested Wallace is, in fact, a “Lost Boy” himself; certainly not an impossibility given some of his insider knowledge (assuming it’s correct and the defensiveness of some of the Mormon readers would suggest it is.)  It’s certainly more sympathetic, I thought than they imply.


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