Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakaur – Book vs. Show


Read This

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakaur (2003)

Watch This

Under The Banner of Heaven on FX or Hulu

Why We Made this Selection and Background Knowledge

Julie: I love both previous Jon Krakauer books I read. And I loved both movie adaptations.

When I saw the trailer for this show, I ran to grab the book and read it before the show came out. I love both Jon Krakauer and true crime so it seemed like a perfect book.

Interestingly, just this weekend I saw a post from Krakauer on Instagram where he spoke about two of his books being adapted wonderfully and a commenter asked which he didn’t like and he said Everest was done poorly. I think I disagree.

Claire: This is my first Jon Krakauer book/show adaptation. Now that he is on my radar, there are other books by him I’m interested in.

Growing up in Arizona, it wasn’t uncommon to hear about the happenings of the Jeffs family and other things going on with the fundamentalists in Colorado City, so I am familiar with that part of the book. I also see Mormon people in my community regularly, and I have to say I don’t have anything bad to say about them.

Before you say which you liked better, did you read the book or listen to the audiobook… because it matters.

Claire: I started with the book, but only made it through the prologue before my husband said he was interested in it. Then I ended up getting the audiobook because we had a road trip coming up so we listened to it.

The weird thing is that there are two versions of this book on Audible, and I didn’t know which one to go with. So I picked the 12-hour one because I figured it would cover everything. Since I do have the book on kindle now, I would be interested in going back and seeing why it matters which one.

Julie: I read the book.

Overall Opinion of the Book

Claire: The book was a lot. Maybe that’s because I went with the 12-hour version? I feel like the book was more of a “reference manual” style. It definitely gave a lot of Mormon history which I was fine with. I enjoy learning the history behind things. And then it really got into the Laffertys, and I feel like learning the history of the religion helped explain some of the things the Laffertys did.

Julie: This book was a lot. I wish it had more storytelling. I think it could have been about 100 pages shorter. I’m not sure I needed all of the histories it gave on the Mormon church (though I saw afterward that it was originally intended to be a history of the Mormon church then he got sidetracked by the Lafferty crime).

I guess, maybe it’s the classification of it as a True Crime book that made me disappointed, it’s really more of an in-depth history with some crime stories for reference. I’d liked more information about Alan the husband and what happened with him after (Googled it and found out he’s remarried, still a Mormon, and now a life coach.)

Overall Opinion of Show

Claire: The biggest thing I disliked about the show was all the jumping around. I get why they did it. I’m not sure the show could have been pulled off any other way, and I think it would have been worse if they followed how the book was – history first, Laffertys later. It was just hard to follow.

Julie: It was hard to watch at times. The timeline jumping was hard to follow. They were fitting in three or four different timelines all at once.

The acting was a bit melodramatic. The speech patterns, were they 80s, regional, or just bad writing/acting?

I found it odd the things they changed since it wasn’t a fictional story. I almost wouldn’t call it an adaptation of the book, it’s more just a story loosely based on true events.

Which did you like Better? Book or Show

Claire: The book.

Julie: Honestly, I didn’t really like either that much but if I had to pick on it would be the book.


  1. Was the outcome the same in both the show and the book? Yes
  2. Was the main character/primary narrator the same in the show and the book? No
  3. Was the primary conflict the same in the show and the book? Yes
  4. Would you read the book again or recommend it to a friend? Julie: No, Claire: No
  5. Would you watch the show/movie again or recommend it to a friend? Julie: No, Claire: No

Overall Rating: 2/5 starts.

To listen to the full episode on Under the Banner of Heaven check out But the Book was Better on Apple and Spotify. Don’t forget to subscribe so you know exactly when each episode is released!


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