BY BY HALLDÓR LAXNESS, TRANSLATED BY JANE SMILEY
I grew up Mormon in Utah, and my whole life I’ve devoured any book with Mormon content. So it blew my mind when a friend informed me that Halldór Laxness wrote a book about an Icelandic farmer who joins the Mormon Church and travels to Utah and back in search of paradise. I couldn’t believe a) that such a book existed and b) that it had escaped my attention before now. Paradise Reclaimed is a bizarre and lovely story, satirical but tender. It’s different from any pioneer story I’ve ever read, most notably because it’s extremely funny at times. I took a picture of this paragraph and sent it to my very religious mother, who appreciated it also:
“Well, if you say you’re not a Mormon, you aren’t one,” said the farmer. “I’ve never heard of a Mormon who didn’t acknowledge he was one before being asked, even though he knew it would cost him a beating.”
In addition to its wonderful descriptions of Mormon Zion and the Icelandic countryside, the book blends in Icelandic history, as well as folklore and fable. I’ve never read a book quite like it, and it’s been a pleasure to discover at this point in my life, having read so many pioneer stories with similar narrative shapes, but told so differently.