Undercurrents of Mormon belief carry a teenage boy toward madness and murder in a novel bound to distress believers.
Non-Mormons, on the other hand, may feel confused and alienated by the sectarian tensions chronicled in this lugubrious tale of a religion-fueled journey into madness. Forced to resign from Brigham Young University after the publication of his debut (Altmann’s Tongue, 1994), excommunicated from the church at his own request in 2000, the gore-inclined Evenson can be presumed to know his Mormon business, which figures heavily in this story. Going through his deceased father’s correspondence, Utah high-schooler Rudd discovers that he has a half-brother named Lael Korth somewhere in the state. Rudd’s distinctly unpleasant and unloving mother denies any such person exists, but the friendless kid tracks down the Korths in a nearby community and builds a relationship with Lael, who turns out to be something of a sociopath. Lael and Rudd are both interested in blood atonement, an unacknowledged and violent tenet of the early Mormons that may have figured in the suicide of the boys’ father. Manipulated by the creepy Lael, Rudd eventually finds himself participating in his father’s exhumation and after that in the murder of a family of campers unlucky enough to cross the boys’ path at the wrong time. Found senseless and close to death near the victims, Rudd remembers nothing of the ritualistic slaughter. The family’s only surviving member, a girl slightly older than Rudd, disastrously drifts into a close relationship with the ever-more-deeply disturbed boy.
A very serious, very cold look at the issue of violence in Mormon history and its pernicious effect on a modern life.