Townhouse Books

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mission to America: Walter Kirn

Mason isn't a Mormon, although he's often mistaken for one. He's a member of a small, matriarchal sect in Montana who is sent out on a mission to recruit new members, specifically potential mates for the young men of the group. Mission to America is the story of his travels through contemporary America, a foreign land with which his culture has had little contact since the late 1800s.

There's a lot about this book that is witty and insightful. I loved the "Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles," with their coming of age Frolic ceremony and their ever-so-carefully calibrated dietary rules. American fast food cuisine wreaks havoc on the missionaries' digestion...

Where it falls short for me is in the geography. I just can't relate. The small town poverty and methamphetamine addiction translates across the country, I guess, but the Colorado ski resort where the missionaries end up attempting to convert a billionare with an irritable bowel? Not so much. Early in the novel Mason tries to convince his partner to head East. I think Kirn could have accomplished more with this novel if he sent his missionaries on a more wide-ranging journey.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Horse Heaven: Jane Smiley

This was identifiably Jane Smiley. Sprawling story, intertwining characters, an honest look at saddness and tragedy, classy writing, excellent research, and a whole lot of humor and wit. There are almost too many people and horses to keep track of, and though initially put off, I was grateful for the cast of characters (including horses) at the beginning. I found myself getting emotionally involved in the characters, especially the story of one horse. Around the last 3/4 of the book, I actually got so anxious about him that I had to skip ahead and follow his storyline to the end.

Despite getting stepped on by that horse in Micanopy, I am fond of and somewhat fascinated with horses and this look into their heads and thoughts (just a few of them) only added to that. I do think however, that even if you're not already a horse fan, you will still enjoy this book.

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