Thursday, May 30, 2013
Book Review: Elders by Ryan McIlvain
Author: Ryan McIlvain
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Personal Copy
This book would be rated: R for language and sexual situations
Elder McLeod has six months left in Brazil and he's still a junior companion. He's well known throughout the mission as a slacker, a complainer, and a general pain in the butt. So the mission president puts him with Elder Passos, a native Brazilian who is gunning to be the Assistant to the President, which he sees as a springboard for a scholarship to BYU and a life of plenty.
As you might imagine, it's not a match made in heaven.
After a day of fruitless knocking on doors, the Elders meet a couple who seems like they might be the golden converts all missionaries hope to find. But life, and soccer, intervenes, and threatens not only the relationship between the two companions, but also the way they see themselves as they enter adulthood.
I loved the early chapters of Elders. I've known many Elders like McLeod-- guys who go on missions because they genuinely want to serve, but belief in the gospel doesn't come easy. The conversations between McLeod and his father, a former doubter, were especially powerful for me. I think McIlvain also does a nice job presenting a mission in an unvarnished light-- the quirks of the other guys, the business-speak of many mission presidents, and the relentlessness of the daily grind. But after the early chapters, the story lost focus. And the ending seemed so hopeless, so nihilistic, and so unresolved that it was a satisfying insight into missionary life but not a satisfying story.