Return Missionary goes back stories

8.22.11 | | 8 comments

Peter Mountford’s A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism (see my GoodReads review ) has its problems, but the premise is not one of them: a bilingual but Americanized Chilean is hired by a venture capital fund to gather intelligence in Bolivia by posing as a journalist around the time of the 2005 presidential election. The execution isn’t there, but it’s a fantastic way to deal with issues of capitalism, politics, identity, language, third world tourism, expatriate-ism, etc.

So my question is: are there any stories out there that do the same (or a similar) thing with Mormon missionaries? I can’t think of any, but my reading in the field is by no means encyclopedic.

If there aren’t any, there should be. What a fascinating way of digging in to several of the key issues of our current day. And it’s got to be a fairly common thing. I know of several Mormons who have served non-stateside and have gone to back to their field of service to do charity work, or go to school, or start a business or career, or as a consultant or foreign service attache or tourist, etc. And the RM-who-returns is the perfect vector through which to tell stories: insider but also outsider in both his/her own nation and the one he/she travels to. The studying abroad or teaching English abroad narrative is a total cliche. And the missionary in the mission field is a bit of one now in Mormon literature. But RM who goes back? As far as I know, that’s open territory. Somebody should jump on that.

8 comments: “Return Missionary goes back stories

  1. Christian

    Are you wanting stories from the RM’s perspective? Because I know that when I was editing for Covenant, there were a number of novels that had an RM functioning back in his area. (I don’t remember editing any with returned sisters.) However, these were invariably romances, so the protagonist was the damsel in distress and the RM’s knowledge of the area enabled him in his knight-errant duties.

  2. John Mansfield

    Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari may interest you, the parts where he travels through lands that he knew a couple decades earlier in the Peace Corps. It depends on how much of Theroux you can take.

  3. Wm

    Christian:

    Yes, that’s exactly what I want. But I must admit that I’m less interested in romances, although I might be interested in how their knowledge of the are enabled them to play the knight-errant. Can you remember any specific titles?

    John:

    Probably not a whole lot. But that does sound more specifically akin to what i’m talking about than most expatriate/travel novels. I’ll take a look at it and see if it can hook me in.

  4. Christian

    I’ll have to look through my titles when I get home from work, but I’m thinking that one of Traci Hunter Abramson’s books had a girl who was in witness protection and her agent or whatever was an RM.

    As this has been sitting in the back of my head, didn’t Hughes do this with the oldest son in his WWII series? I seem to recall Alex having served in Germany and then getting sent back there with the war. I could be misremembering though.

  5. Katya

    If you’re willing to go broader than literature, the film Saints and Soldiers does the same thing.

    And I thought I had a Margaret Blair Young story that did the same thing, but then I remember that it’s actually the reverse: a young man is called to serve in an area which includes his old hometown.

  6. Wm

    I am, but I think that the war story version is going to be less interesting in the sense that the narrative tension is always going to be obvious: how am I supposed to kill/spy on the people I taught?

  7. Eugene

    The Path of Dreams has the main characters meeting when she’s on a mission and he’s gone back to work in Japan, although that’s the backstory, not a going back story. The novel does end with the intention to go back, and a year or so ago I set out to write the going back part as a sequel, but eventually ended up with a completely different novel instead. The discarded pieces are still sitting around waiting for a plot to show up.

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