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A memoir about a missionary family

“More Than Conquerors — a Memoir of Lost Arguments” by Megan Hustad (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 228 pages, $25).

There are many memoirs being published. They seem as commonplace as photos of cats on the Internet. We have stories to tell. When it comes to writing down what we know best, the details of our lives, the memoir form can be ideal for preserving life stories.

Megan Hustad just published “More Than Conquerors — a Memoir of Lost Arguments.” Hustad’s Midwestern origins are humble ones.

“My great-uncle Donald Hustad, who would go on to become the official crusade organist for the evangelist Billy Graham, grew up with my grandfather Wes in a small town called Boone, Iowa, at a home for indigents,” she writes in her prelude. “They weren’t orphans but their father was dead, and the Boone Biblical College and Associated Institutions took their mother, Clara, and these pale, fat-kneed boys in and gave them work and a place to sleep.”

Hustad goes on to describe what it was like growing up in a deeply religious family. Her parents became missionaries.

We have many ways to remember things. If you asked 10 people to describe an event they experienced together, you would hear 10 different versions of what was being recalled. As Hustad looked back on her childhood, she understood the challenge presented in trying to reconstruct her memories.

She eventually rebelled and distanced herself from the Christian beliefs of her parents. She now acknowledges that her father “knows most of my friends are of the opinion that the country would be better off without people who think like he does. His new status as a cultural relic bothers him.”

“More Than Conquerors” traces the nomadic journey of this missionary family. During the late 1970s, the Hustads lived on Bonaire, a Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela. Her father was employed by Trans World Radio, a massive clear channel religious broadcaster.

TWR Bonaire could be heard “in Canada and on down into Argentina and shacks deep in the Amazon jungle,” Hustad siad. Megan and her sister Amy would sometimes go down to the station at night to watch their father at work.

“He’d be keeping watch over the console, listening for any worrying clanks in the twin 45-ton, 16-cylinder Alco diesel engines, large as locomotives, used to generate the 3.32 million watts of electricity needed…,” she said.

Every two years the family returned to the U.S. on “furlough.” They would spend a couple of months or more in the upper Midwest to solicit donations from supporters. They usually met in church basements to watch slide shows about their mission in Bonaire.

TWR transferred the family to Holland. Her father worked hard but could not get along with his boss. TWR decided that the family could move to Sri Lanka. Her father had had enough.

They moved to Minneapolis instead. Her dad had a tough time finding work. The daughters began to distance themselves. Eventually the author moved to New York City to build a new life. “More Than Conquerors - a Memoir of Lost Arguments” has a subtle, supple power that really resonated with this reviewer.

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