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Book review: 'Persona Non Grata' shares how one man can change a country's future

By Karen Schwarze

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 17 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

"PERSONA NON GRATA," by Stephen J. Stirling, Bonneville Books, $15.99, 212 pages (f)

LDS author Stephen J. Stirling’s "Persona Non Grata" is a thrilling adventure highlighting the role of the Holy Ghost in personal — and international — affairs. Stirling places his story amidst the backdrop of conflicts in Crimea — a fictional constitutional monarchy in Eastern Europe.

He states that the novel is not intended to be a reflection of the recent Eastern European conflicts — he started writing the novel in 2008 — but in his introductory note he writes that the similarities between his story and the real conflicts are “staggering.”

Paladin Smith, a seminary teacher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a high school history teacher, receives an unexpected visit by an enemy whose niece, one of Smith’s former seminary students, is in trouble in Crimea, caught up in the dazzle of diplomacy as an ambassador’s assistant.

Smith takes on the quest, guided by his father’s priesthood blessing and encouraged by his wife. Landing in Crimea, Smith finds that he must use his wits and the promptings of the Holy Ghost to complete his mission, a mission bigger than just rescuing a former student from peril — though it is that, and the peril mounts as the pages turn.

Stirling presents his ideas of how the Holy Ghost communicates with people through his portrayal of Smith’s interactions with the Spirit — an interesting element of the plot.

Stirling includes references to the Book of Mormon, missionaries, priesthood blessings, and other elements of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since the main character is a faithful member of the church.

There is no offensive language. The sexual content doesn't go beyond a mention of "lecherous" looks, and there is a description of a fist fight.

"Persona Non Grata" shows not only how God will use seemingly ordinary people to do important things, but also that he is interested in the events that transpire in this world — those that shape governments and the futures of individuals.

Karen Schwarze is a freelance writer.

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