and the Burden of Excess
Review by Alyce Wilson
Triopia and the Burden of Excess is like a Mormon version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a comparison author Bryan Richards would no doubt find flattering, since he cites Robert Persig as an influence.
In Triopia, the main character, Daniel, a young Mormon recently returned from his two-year mandatory mission, wrestles with a spiritual crisis while on his semester abroad in Jerusalem. A place steeped in the history of several of the world’s religions, Jerusalem is a natural setting for such exploration. .
And Richards should know. He’s been there.
Triopia is loosely based on Richards’ own semester abroad in Jerusalem, an experience that helped him to vividly portray the culture and scenography of the land that is Holy to three separate religions. Although it was written long before September 11, the book’s exploration of the conflicts between these religions, and thoughts about the individual’s place in the face of dogma, are keenly relevant.
Along the way, Daniel’s spiritual searching incorporates thoughts about the history of Middle East conflict, the foundations of Mormonism and the challenges and rewards of remaining in the faith, and the reasons that varying governments and religions have failed to resolve enduring conflict.
Much as Pirsig used the relationship between a father and son to serve as a springboard for philosophic thought, Richards uses the discussions between the young people studying in Jerusalem for a similar purpose. At times the interchangeable nature of these characters, many of whom are little more than a name, can be a distraction, as can their sometimes immature behavior. It would have been better if Richards had focused on a few central characters, such as the enigmatic Anthony, whose iconoclastic thoughts and behavior influence Daniel’s spiritual growth.
Despite this unevenness, there is much worth reading here. From vivid cultural portraits to the unfolding of a personal philosophy, Triopia may help many readers begin their own personal spiritual explorations.
Word Wright International; ISBN: 0971383278