In this memoir, Sarah Bjork shares a funny, warm-hearted collection of anecdotes from her time serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In the summer of 2014, Bjork is excited when she gets her call to serve as a missionary in California. She shares her struggles and triumphs as she learns how to teach the lessons of her church and keeps an upbeat attitude as she encounters hostile people, a revolving door of companions, assignments that change overnight, and the difficulties of learning Spanish, which was “like trying to swallow food I was allergic to.” Ultimately, she declares her mission “the best eighteen months of my life.”
The heavily descriptive, sometimes hyperbolic language (“An ugly pain gripped my heart, clenching it repeatedly in agonizing contractions”) renders Bjork’s feelings in vivid detail. There are wonderful moments, such as the pride Bjork takes in her nametag declaring her “Hermana Bjork”: “I sat up a little straighter, an official feeling of responsibility settling over my shoulders.”
But overall, the book seems a bit undeveloped. We learn about a missionary’s training, schedule, and key lessons on salvation but not about Bjork or her family, her relationship to her faith, or how she’s changed by her experience. Generally, people and incidents are lightly sketched, whether the author is being chased by strange men, attacked by a garden hose, or inspiring someone with her message. Readers feel Bjork’s joy at being a missionary, but they might wish she had explored the commitment that sustains her when she encounters locked doors and awkward conversations.
Additionally, while some incidents are amusing, like the time she accidentally sat on a cactus or ate a giant hamburger on a dare, their meaning for the larger story is unclear.
Bjork’s voice is light-hearted and engaging, but the brevity, lack of meaningful reflection, and frequent grammatical errors keep the book from being as probing or inspiring as Bjork’s message perhaps deserves.
Also available as an ebook.