Books

Questions of Faith: Author Shawn Vestal's 'Godforsaken Idaho'

OPB | May 24, 2013 7:15 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 27, 2013 3:49 p.m.

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What do you do when you decide not to be something anymore? We all make choices about whether or not to do one thing or another, but how do you stop being something?

Author Shawn Vestal grew up in a Mormon family in Gooding, Idaho, but left the faith as a young adult.

“There were things out in the world that I was attracted to that I wanted to experience,” says Vestal.

His decision brought to the fore issues of faith, which he explores in a new collection of short stories. Released in April of this year, Godforsaken Idaho derives from Vestal’s experiences with faith. It also examines secular takes on life and the afterlife. Slate recently featured Vestal as one of a growing number of ex-Mormon writers who examine the faith in their writing.

“I don’t feel bitter or angry towards the Church, necessarily,” explains Vestal. “There’s things that I don’t like about it necessarily, but my family is all still in it, they’re all devout, we all love each other and get along. We live with our differences.”

Shawn Vestal now lives in Spokane, where he writes for the Spokesman-Review. After two decades of writing stories in his spare time, he went back to school in 2006 to get an MFA in creative writing at Eastern Washington University. He was published in the literary journal McSweeney’s the following year, and signed a book deal shortly after that.

“I’m working on a new book and it has some of the same characteristics of this one. Some of it occurs in Idaho, some of the characters are LDS, but I think it goes in different directions. It’s a little more interested in the historical time period it occurs in, in the ‘70s, but again, I’m just trying to extract a story.”

Listen to Think Out Loud’s full conversation with Shawn Vestal

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