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“Glows with the love and anger of a former believer. . . . Clear-eyed. . . . Finely paced, keenly observed, and ruefully honest.” —Boston Globe
"[A] classic in Mormon letters. . . . Excellent, Mormon-themed novels are few and far between. This is one of them.”—The Daily Beast
“McIlvain dissects the mix of need and ambition and genuine faith that fuel a disciplined devotion. . . . Earthbound. . . . Honest. . . . Builds to [a] drastic resolution.” —Slate
“Elders is a refreshingly earnest, clear-eyed, and self-assured debut by a young writer to watch. McIlvain wrestles with sturdy themes, conflicted characters, and big ideas—the stuff of classic literature. —Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here
“I’ve always wanted to read a novel about Mormon missions abroad, and McIlvain is the ideal writer to write it. The framework he provides is layered and fascinating, and inside it, the complex human drama plays out beautifully—these are memorable characters, and McIlvain shows them to us with compassion and honesty both.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“Ryan McIlvain’s beautifully written first novel takes the reader inside a quest: the coming-of-age mission expected of young male Mormons. Elders reveals a world of self-denial, proselytizing and passionate faith very differently experienced by a young American and his Brazilian counterpart. For one, to succeed is to turn away; for the other, faith is survival itself. Elders, “seeking one star in a million, a golden elect,” arrives at the perfect moment.” —Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark & Termite
“A nuanced meditation on faith and commitment that has all the intensity of a stage play. Elders is a powerful and deeply moving debut from a gifted young writer.” —T.C. Boyle, author of San Miguel
“A thoughtful, carefully wrought story about the voids between belief and questioning, between loneliness and companionship, between home and far, far away.” —Ramona Ausubel, author of No One Is Here Except All of Us
“In graceful, deft prose, Elders explores how two very young men cope with the serious task they are charged to perform, and the close quarters they must share. Every sentence counts as the novel tracks their fraught intimacy, their sincere efforts, their doubts, their disappointments. This is a wise book about the strength of human relationships under the pressure of challenged faith. Ryan McIlvain offers the reader genuine hope.” —Alice Elliot Dark, author of In the Gloaming
“With strong, economical language, Ryan McIlvain has crafted a terrific story. From exotic Brazil to an even stranger America. These characters are presented fully and with great affection. I'm certain this is the first of many fine works from an important new voice.” —Percival Everett, author of Percival Everett by Virgil Russell
He waited at a nearby bus stop for ten minutes. Fifteen minutes, twenty. Had all the bus drivers in Carinha taken siestas too, all of Minas, the entirety of southeast Brazil? And where was Elder Passos? He had failed to follow after him, failed to turn up at the bus stop at all. He had succeeded, in other words, in surprising McLeod. Maybe there was a touch of earth in him after all. The Missionary Handbook forbade and forbade--no TV, radio, newspapers, etc., no recreational phone calls, etc., etc.--but it proscribed nothing so strongly as being separate from your companion. And yet . . . McLeod checked his watch, craned his head to see as far down the street as he could. Nothing and no one.
A touch of earth. Where was that from again? Something by Tennyson, right? Or was it Longfellow? He would have to ask Mom to look it up for him in his next letter home. Why could he never remember anything? Why could he not hold on to knowledge? Already the yield of years of effort in high school, and all the reading and memorizing he'd done on his own--it had dwindled to traces, scraps of language, and most of it floating maddeningly free of its context. Such that someone says now, at some point, and for some reason, that who loves me must have a touch of earth, the low sun makes the color . . . and something else. He would have to check it with his mother.
Soon enough McLeod could check things himself. He could enroll at Boston College or maybe Amherst, or maybe even one of the Ivy Leagues--he could at least apply--and then he could take history and literature classes and study facts, or study fiction, and put behind him this muddy slosh of the two. Six months more. The homestretch.
McLeod checked his watch again. Had it really been thirty minutes since he last saw Passos, and more than that without a bus? But just then he heard a low, diesel rumble: the rectangular bulk of a city bus rounding a corner, spilling its sound onto the main street. McLeod stood up from the bench with what must have been an expectant look, for by the time he saw that it was an eight bus the driver had already begun to brake for him. The bus pulled up to the curb and unfolded itself: the platform's sudden hitch downward, the hydraulic sigh of the double doors. The driver leaned on his lever and looked at McLeod. "You getting on?"
"This is the eight, right? I'm waiting for the six. Sorry," McLeod said.
"But, hey," he said, "where is everybody?"
"Probably glued to their TVs."
"No, I mean, where are all the buses?"
"Less people to pick up, less buses." The driver studied McLeod a moment longer, a bemused little grin dawning up through his features. "The Latin American Championships, right? They started today. How do you say it?" He reached for the word in English: "Soccer?"
McLeod thanked him and stepped back from the curb as the bus pulled away, lifting a shimmering wake of dust. As it dissipated, McLeod caught sight of Elder Passos on the opposite sidewalk. He seemed apparitional, unsolid except for the green cans he carried in either hand. He started across the street.
"For a second I thought you'd got on that bus," Passos called, holding up two cans of Guarana. "Would have been twice the refreshment for me."
"Where were you?" McLeod said.
Passos gestured at the soda as he drew close to McLeod. "I figured we needed something to cool us down. And I don't know where anything is yet. So it took a while. You'll forgive me?"
Elder Passos produced his watted smile, easy and bright, and it softened McLeod. He accepted the can from Passos, cracked the tab--the sound of barbecues, camping trips. The transporting sound of elsewhere. The elders sat on the bus-stop bench and drank in long continuous gulps, as if discovering their thirst as they tried to sate it. After a moment McLeod came up for air, broke the silence. "I'm surprised you found somebody to sell you something. Today's the start of the Latin American Championships, apparently."
"Today?" Passos said. "Seriously?" He looked off for a minute, came back. "I guess that's right, isn't it? Early January. The mission disorients you."
"Amen," McLeod said.
"Amen and amen." Passos tipped the last of his soda above his open mouth, shaking the can like a handbell, dripping it dry. When McLeod had finished his a minute later, Passos walked the two cans to a trash barrel a few feet from the bus stop. He turned around. "Better?"
Elder McLeod nodded his head, even muttered a quiet sentence about the heat and his impatience--how he was working on it, how he wasn't usually like he was back there.
"That's okay," Passos said. "We'll just knock the last door, then call it a day. We said five, right? One more?"
McLeod pushed air through his nose again, shaking his head through the disembodied laugh, a genuine sound now, almost admiring.
It was Passos's door anyway. He led them back to the street they'd been knocking earlier, and in the middle of it he put one hand to his head, another out in front of him like a seer, pretending to channel some power as to where he should knock. It was another gesture, another touch of earth. McLeod gave a grateful laugh.
Posted October 6, 2014
Purdy padded in with Dappletail. "You look Purdy." He complimented. Dappletail chuckled. "No. But I looked beautiful in my young and frisky days. Toms loved me." "Ah, I never knew love." Said Purdy. "I never understood the serious part of mating. I nuzzled, and sometimes made out, I was always Flir<_>ting. I am NEVER going to do that again." "Good for you." Purred Purdy. "When I was young, I liked to play by the sea." "Such a nice life. I like how the StarClan decided to be with us. I wish I was one." Sighed Dappletail. "Ahem. You are one." Said Mousefur entering. "I have overheard your conversations. Uh-oh. Here comes Ravenpaw and Swiftpaw. Put on your grumpy mood!" Mousefur layed down and put on her grumpiest face, looking like they woke her up from a nap. "Mousefur, you can never-" Dappletail started to say, but just then the StarClan apprintence and the sleek black apprintence entered. "Hello Ravenpaw and Swiftpaw!" Purdy meowed. "Nice to see you! Sit down and have something to eat." "EXCUSE ME?" Roared Mousefur, trying to act grumpy. "They should go and get some more prey!" "Mousefur!" Gasped Dappletail. "Don't worry. It's fine." She said. "Not with me." Grumped Mousefur. "Mousefur, please stop trying to act grumpy." Mousefur sighed. Foiled. "Goodbye." She said and marched out. Ravenpaw and Swiftpaw tried to hold back, but a few giggles sneaked out. Dappletail and Purdy laughed too. Ravenpaw and Swiftpaw padded out. "Elders." They laughed and padded away.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 13, 2013
Posted May 11, 2013
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