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BOOK REVIEW: Mission to America by Walter Kirn


The shrinking population of the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles (AFA) has led to a crisis – new bloodlines must be introduced into the community if they wish the community to continue, as it has done for more than 147 year. This isolationist sect has lived apart from mainstream society, tucked into the hills of rural Montana and led by matriarchs, who follow the edicts of their Seeress to maintain a life of modesty and nutritional vigilance called Edenic Nutritional Science. The only wealthy member of the faith, Ennis Lauer, has hand-picked a group of young men to prepare for an unheard-of mission – seeking out “brides” in mainstream America. Mission to America tells the story of one of these pairs of young men, Mason LaVerle and Elder Stark, as they leave Bluff, Montana and travel to Colorado in a decrepit van, bringing their message of clean living and healthy digestion to world-weary Americans.

Walter Kirn’s fifth novel focuses on Mason, a naif bewildered by the choices and depravity all around them as they begin their journey. Dressed to look like Jehovah’s Witnesses’ younger cousins (to take advantage of the good will that group has engendered), they follow the techniques taught by Ennis Lauer – essentially sale closing techniques used by con men and used car salesmen.

Where Mason’s overriding characteristics are naïveté and a calm presence, Elder Stark’s are all sharp edges and chaotic energy. Asserting his leadership in their relationship early on, Stark quickly develops a maniacal appetite for reality television and the worst of America’s junk food. His character soon belies the images created by his name, becoming the polar opposite – a beast controlled by his appetites. These appetites are what make him the natural choice as Lauer’s ambassador in his bid to usurp leadership of the AFA.

When lampooning America’s hunger for spiritual gurus, Kirn is at his best. Using Mason to mirror America’s lack of moral compass works to illuminate the fear and dearth of spirituality at the core of most of the selfish choices made each day. In a post 9-11 world, this novel can be read as an indictment of the spiritual journey upon which many Americans claim to have embarked although in reality, they are caught up in the soulless world of reality TV and idle consumerism. Occasionally he gets bogged down in describing the belief system and mythology of the faith he has created but at its core, this is a strong, thought-provoking and humourous novel.

Mission to America leaves the reader questioning the nature of faith, the quest for understanding and wondering how much of Kirn’s early childhood experiences with the Mormon church are reflected within the character of Mason.

See the review as it appears at Armchair Interviews – Mission to America.

posted under fiction
2 Comments to

“BOOK REVIEW: Mission to America by Walter Kirn”

  1. On March 10th, 2006 at 8:12 pm Chris Says:

    As I read this review, it reminded me of another book I’ve read, but I can’t remember what it was……

  2. On March 11th, 2006 at 9:21 am Danny Haszard Says:

    Good read mate,reg Jehovah’s Witnesss and “good will”
    Jehovah’s Witnesses – Who are they and what do they believe?

    The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1842) failed they said that he came “invisibly”.


    I have family in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Naples Florida kingdom hall who practice the Watchtower JW enforced ritual shunning that i have not seen or heard from in 15 years.

    The WatchTower Corporation is a media publishing, real estate development, and convention sponsoring company and their literature all promotes the corporation and those goals.

    UNLIKE in the case of Christians who are persecuted in other lands for talking about Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses are largely persecuted for following the teachings of their corporate headquarters.

    When the Watchtower is held accountable for their misdeeds they scream religious ‘persecution’.

    The Watchtower corporation pays no municipal taxes on their buildings, without even one charity to compensate the community.

    [ Think! When was the last time you saw a Jehovah’s Witness charity of any kind for the poor? ]

    The Watchtower is BIG money, being one of the top 40 New York City Corporations making nearly one billion dollars a year. That’s just from one of their many corporations.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the teachings begun during the second presidency of the Watchtower, when Joseph F. Rutherford took over in a corporate flap and began changing doctrines quickly in the Watchtower belief system.

    He claimed that angels directly conveyed “truth” to some of those in leadership. He coined the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” to make them stand out from being witnesses of Jesus, a typical evangelical expression (and a Biblical one).

    Rutherford dumped holidays, birthdays and the 1874 date for the invisible return on Christ, and invented an “earthly class” of Witnesses, since only 144,000 can go to heaven according to their teaching.

    The rest, meaning all 99.9% of Witnesses still alive, will live forever on a cleansed earth, under the rule of the Watchtower corporate headquarter leaders in heaven, who will keep them in line by local elders known as “princes.”

    If you have been “witnessed to” by Jehovah’s Witnesses and you reject their message, you will likely die “shortly” at Armageddon with all the other non-Witnesses, since theirs is the only true religion, and (if they can live up to all the rules) they are the only ones to inhabit this “new earth.”

    If you believe Witnesses seem rigid now, any non-conformist during the future “cleansed earth” will be directly destroyed by their god. Even now a Witness will be disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for any one of many gaffs, such as smoking, taking a blood transfusion, or even voting.

    To even vocally question the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witness organization will result in complete cutting off, with family and friends usually being forbidden to talk to them.

    The Watchtower is a truly ORWELLIAN world.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are the ‘perfect storm’ of deception-in a word they are the cult of Innuendo–Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

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