4 out of 4 stars
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Ituy is a non-fiction title in which the author, Taylor Willingham, narrates his adventures as a young missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines, where he went to try and convert the Igorot and Cagayanese people. His experiences in the Philippines, especially in Dupax Del Sur, a land anciently known as Ituy, changed his life. Willingham was nineteen years old in 2001 when he went on this adventurous and life-changing two-year trip. His struggles as a missionary helped him develop practices that changed him, and he shares this incredible coming-of-age story in the book, walking readers through his transformation.
The author grew up in Springville, Utah, a ghetto of Provo, Utah, the location of the Missionary Training Center. As a child, his father, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made him read the Bible and Book of Mormon every day. The author tells readers that as a child and teenager, he was a below-average student who didn’t possess many skills or knowledge. His work as a missionary changed this.
The book had several positive aspects. For starters, I appreciated the author’s idea that this adventure was akin to the age-old mythical narrative of a hero’s journey, a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. He argues that Mormons are one of the few communities that still practice this rite of passage. I liked how he uses poetic language and metaphors throughout the book. The author’s writing style is touching and candid. Willingham had to endure a burnt face, aching legs, mosquito bites, and raw inner thighs, among other hardships.
Additionally, I enjoyed the author’s portrayal of the Philippines. Throughout the book, Willingham shares some of the rich history of the Cagayan Valley, especially the Catholic missionaries who sacrificed their lives for the Cagayanese hundreds of years ago. He tells readers the story of Father Gutierrez, who had opened the work in Ituy to Christian missionaries almost 400 years before. For thirty-five years, Father Gutierrez taught the Igorots the gospel of Jesus. I also learned a lot about Mormons. For instance, I learned that all Elders wore garments that are also called Mormon underwear.
In closing, I gladly rate this poetic and heart-rendering book 4 out of 4 stars. It seems professionally edited, for I only found a few editing mishaps. There’s nothing I didn’t like about it, and I would recommend it to readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories. Also, if you appreciate missionary tales, you should take a look at Ituy.
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