David Haglund of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
No matter where in the New York area you live, chances are that at some point you've spotted a pair of young men in white collared shirts and dark slacks with black name tags over their left-hand pockets. These are Mormon missionaries. Maybe you saw them on Broadway, where "The Book of Mormon" musical has a pair of them as the lead characters.
Tickets for that show are hard to come by, so in the meantime, you might pick up two new books that also present fictional-and fascinating-Mormon missionaries. Ryan McIlvain's debut novel, "Elders", tells the story of two such men in Brazil - one an American, the other a native Brazilian - preaching to the unconverted just before the United States invaded Iraq. The novel captures both the tedium and the tensions of missionary life overseas.
In "Winter Elders," a story in Shawn Vestal's new collection, "Godforsaken Idaho", an angry ex-Mormon confronts missionaries who want to bring him back to the fold. It's a dark tale, but a complicated and sensitive one. Other stories in the collection dig into the Mormon past, while another imagines life after death. Like McIlvain's novel, it's full of believable and complex characters who might restore your faith-in fiction.
Look for reviews of these books and more on the Slate Book Review at www.slate.com/books.