Godforsaken Idaho by Shawn Vestal

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Winner of the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
Shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Named “Outstanding 2013 Collection” by The Story Prize
Pushcart Prize Winner

In this stunning debut, Shawn Vestal transports us to the afterlife, the rugged Northwest, and the early days of Mormonism. From “The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death,” an absurd, profound vision of a hellish heaven, to "Winter Elders," in which missionaries calmly and relentlessly pursue a man who has left the fold, these nine stories illuminate the articles of faith that make us human.

The concluding triptych tackles the legends and legacy of Mormonism head-on, culminating in "Diviner," a seriocomic portrait of the young Joseph Smith, back when he was not yet the founder of a religion but a man hired to find buried treasure. Godforsaken Idaho is an indelible collection by the writer you need to read next.


About Shawn Vestal

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Shawn Vestal is an Eastern Washington University alumni. He has had stories from the collection published within Tin House, McSweeney's, and others.
Published April 2, 2013 by Little A. 224 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Godforsaken Idaho

Kirkus Reviews

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A provocative and revelatory debut, filled with stories about losing faith and trying (often in vain) to find purpose, mainly set amid the sparsely populated Mormon country of the rugged Northwest.

Feb 18 2013 | Read Full Review of Godforsaken Idaho

Publishers Weekly

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In his debut collection of short stories, Vestal, a journalist for The Spokesman-Review, focuses on down-on-their-luck types, stubborn men in the dregs of society and on the verge of giving up. The un

Mar 25 2013 | Read Full Review of Godforsaken Idaho

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's a journey through Idaho with a stop in heaven in Shawn Vestal's intriguing short story debut, "Godforsaken Idaho."

May 07 2013 | Read Full Review of Godforsaken Idaho

Oregon Live

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Apr 20 2013 | Read Full Review of Godforsaken Idaho

Los Angeles Review of Books

THE NARRATOR of “Opposition in All Things,” the seventh story in Shawn Vestal's debut collection, Godforsaken Idaho, is 32 years dead when he wakes up inside the vision of Rulon Warren, the son of a niece he had known when she was just a little girl.

Aug 21 2013 | Read Full Review of Godforsaken Idaho


The dead here are stuck hunting for perfect moments to relive, though they often “find it hard to land a single untroubled moment.” The narrator continues: “Every second is crowded with life, with misery and anxiety that just won’t be stomped down.” When the narrator finally finds his perfect mom...

Aug 21 2013 | Read Full Review of Godforsaken Idaho

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