Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: True Sisters

True SistersAuthor: Sandra Dallas
Publication Date: May 21, 2013 (Paperback)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In a novel based on true events, New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas delivers the story of four women---seeking the promise of salvation and prosperity in a new land---who come together on a harrowing journey.

In 1856, Mormon converts, encouraged by Brigham Young himself, and outfitted with two-wheeled handcarts, set out on foot from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, the promised land. The Martin Handcart Company, a zealous group of emigrants headed for Zion, is the last to leave on this 1,300-mile journey. Earlier companies arrive successfully in Salt Lake City, but for the Martin Company the trip proves disastrous. True Sisters tells the story of four women whose lives will become inextricably linked as they endure unimaginable hardships, each one testing the boundaries of her faith and learning the true meaning of survival and friendship along the way: Nannie, who is traveling with her sister and brother-in-law after being abandoned on her wedding day; Louisa, who’s married to an overbearing church leader who she believes speaks for God; Jessie, who’s traveling with her brothers, each one of them dreaming of the farm they will have in Zion; and Anne, who hasn’t converted to Mormonism but who has no choice but to follow her husband since he has sold everything to make the trek to Utah.

Sandra Dallas has once again written a moving portrait of women surviving the unimaginable through the ties of female friendship.

The sisters pared down to their wardrobes, so that each had just three dresses, two for the journey and the third to wear for the handcart entrance into Great Salt Lake City, where they expected to be met by a brass band.

The three of them knew about polygamy, had known about it before they agreed to go to Utah Territory. In 1853, not long after they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they learned that Joseph Smith had revealed to his people that the Lord had told Mormon men to take second and third wives.

“Is it any more preposterous than God giving Moses stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them?”

Later, when John pressed her, as he had repeatedly since they boarded the ship, to consider joining the church, Anne repeated the woman’s words: “If God wants me to become a Mormon, He, not you, will tell me.”

This story follows a group of Mormon converts coming to America, more directly to Salt Lake City, from various places in Europe. This story is based on the true events inspired by Brigham Young and the Promised Land that he foresaw for his people. The Martin Handcart Company, which all four of our women belong to, is the last to leave on this trek across the United States to Salt Lake City. This story follows four women who are all walking the same trail to Salt Lake City, but who all hold different desires, dreams, and family dynamics. We follow Nannie, Anne, Louisa, and Jessie as they suffer through life’s disappointments and learn what they each really stand for.

I think this would and is a difficult topic to cover and write. Sandra Dallas, always a favorite read for me, does an exquisite job writing about something that was such a monumental event in the history of our nation. Many Latter Day Saints crossed oceans and vast flat lands, hills, and mountains to reach the Promised Land, and talking about religion in any type of writing can be a sticky situation and especially an event as big as this one. I can honestly say that I truly felt that she captured the struggles and the hardships that each of these women and the people on this trail faced as they trekked West. I genuinely felt compassion and sympathy for each young woman as she went through her own trials and tribulations.

I did have my favorite characters though and two women really stood out to me. I admired the way they were written and the things they believed in. Firstly there was Anne, whose husband is a firm believer and recent convert, but who cannot accept that Anne has not accepted the faith yet. Anne is a confident woman who stands firm in her beliefs even if her husband and everyone around her does not approve. Even as she loses her eldest daughter and is pregnant with another, she still stands firm in the fact that she is her own person and only God will change her mind. And secondly there was Jessie who was traveling out West with her two older brothers. Jessie is stubborn and is used to doing a man’s work alongside her two brothers. She is not delicate like most women and has no use for many of the men who try to boss around their wives and treat them as less than equal. Both of these women were written as true inspirations!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review***

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