Looking for something light to read I was attracted to this novel by three things. First the fact that it was a comedy. Secondly that it was based on the thankless task of Mormon missionaries, a field as yet unexplored in the comedy genre. Thirdly I liked the cover (I know, I know never judge a book by its cover). The story follows Elder Kenny a half hearted missionary at best, coerced into the mission by his stepfather, he is joined by Elder Jared who like Kenny has been pushed into the mission by his family. They are a likable duo, livening up the depressing business of knocking on doors with wise cracking humour. Regretfully there are only two or three good wisecracks before the story turns into a theological debate.
Debate is probably the wrong word as the Author makes it very clear from the outset that he is not a believer in Mormonism or any other established religion and spends nearly half the book demolishing religion in all its many and varied guises. Far to long and very tedious. John Draper could have stated his position in one paragraph and then got on with the story.
There is some rather heavy handed satirical humour at the expense of several of the characters who are religious leaders, have no belief in God, yet continue to exercise power, as they love the trappings of authority. There is also a bit of slapstick thrown in for good measure.
As the story progresses Jared’s humour becomes more and more bizarre until it reaches the point that Kenny begins to believe that Jared has mental health issues. In fact Jared is suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia. The story then takes a serious turn, no longer a comedy but a battle against an incurable disease, where the treatment is often worse than the disease itself.
Basically there are three sections:
First: The half hearted missionaries on a mission doomed to failure.
Second: A theological debate.
Third: A tale of love, family and friendship fighting a losing battle against a terrible disease.
In my opinion the author would have been wiser to have made this into two books, one about the hapless missionaries which could have been made into something really funny by deleting the interminable theological claptrap and adding a more humour. Then the story of Jared and his friends and family and their battle with Schizophrenia, which was truly moving, beautifully written and terribly sad, on its own this would be a best seller.
Difficult to rate this, as a humorous novel 2 Bites, as a story of love, friendship and death 4 bites. Put them together and it makes an average of 3 bites.