Saturday, May 17, 2008

Book Review: Season of Sacrifice

Season of Sacrifice
By Tristi Pinkston

Persistence, dedication, obedience, ingenuity, courage and resourcefulness are all terms we associate with pioneers. Season of Sacrifice, Tristi Pinkston’s new historical novel, illustrates how these and other qualities were necessary for the very survival of a group of Mormon saints. Based on diaries of her ancestors and other research, it chronicles the little-known story of the saints called to populate the San Juan region of southern Utah.

Welsh immigrants Ben and Mary Ann Perkins and Mary Ann’s sister, Sarah, are among a group of saints assigned to leave their homes in Cedar City and establish a new settlement in San Juan. The journey is expected to take six weeks; instead, it takes six months as they are faced with the daunting prospect of building their own roads at times and then blasting a hole through a massive solid rock cliff, a hole large enough for their wagons to pass through, followed by constructing a steep and dangerous dugway in order to reach their final destination.

Ben’s tenacity, resourcefulness and experience with explosives as a former miner help him and others to engineer this seemingly impossible feat. The stunning photograph on the cover gives the reader an idea of the remarkable success of their efforts.

The trek creates many hardships for the group (in a direct quote included in the introduction, one member of a handcart party wrote in her journal that the journey to the San Juan region was more difficult for her than the challenges she experienced in crossing the plains from Winter Quarters to Utah).

After they finally reach the San Juan area, Ben and Mary Ann build a home and face another daunting task: engineering irrigation systems to divert water from the San Juan River in order to raise the crops that will sustain them. At times they remember Wales and its lush green hills with longing as they compare it to Utah’s harsh desert land, though they see the beauty in their new environment as well.

The themes of complete obedience to the gospel and unwavering faith are seamlessly woven into the narrative. When the principle of plural marriage enters the story it is handled with great sensitivity and compassion. An excellent essay at the end of the book also offers further insight into polygamy and its role in that period of Mormon history.

Pinkston documents her sources and explains parts of the story that were fictionalized out of necessity, based on her research and her own interpretation of events. This reinforces the reader’s understanding of the author’s determination to write the story of her great-great grandfather with integrity and accuracy.

There are gaps in the storyline where transitions would have been helpful to the reader but perhaps would have required Pinkston to engage in further speculation. Though the chronology is not always smooth due to these gaps, the underlying structure of the narrative, the character development and the dialogue are strong enough to keep the reader thoroughly engaged.

This is a compelling, informative, well-written and insightful read, and even more powerful because sections of newspaper articles and diaries quoting the actual words of the characters are included, as well as several precious old photographs. Pinkston pays a touching tribute to her ancestors while documenting the trek of these hardy Welsh immigrants who were steadfast in obeying every aspect of the gospel, regardless of the sacrifices required of them.
The book can be purchased at http://www.tristipinkston.com/ where you can also read more about Tristi and her historical novels.

reviewed by Janet Kay Jensen

Title: : Season of Sacrifice:
Author: Tristi Pinkston
Publisher: Golden Wings
Genre: Historical FictionYear
Published: 2008
Number of Pages: 320
Binding: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9794340-1-3
Price: $16.95

1 comment:

Jen said...

I really enjoyed this book!