Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Ammon by H. B. Moore

  • I don't typically read novels based on scripture, and forget Hollywood when it comes to accuracy. I have often thought I won't recognize Moses on the other side if he doesn't look and sound exactly like Charlton Heston. So there you have it, my prejudice. I don't like to be manipulated or persuaded beyond what is actually known, especially when it comes to religion.
  • Therefore it was a good stretch for me to dip into this genre and take on Ammon by H. B. Moore. First, I know Moore as an author of integrity and a deep knowledge of the scriptures.  I knew Ammon as the great Nephite missionary in the Book of Mormon, a prince who turned away from his title and wealth to live among the Lamanites in order to teach and serve them, and with those factors in mind I was willing to become engaged in the novel. And I certainly did become engaged.
I always cringe, though, when I read that while protecting the king's flocks, Ammon took his sword and "smote off the arms" of the wicked men who were trying to scatter and steal the animals. Frankly, the violence of this incident has always bothered me, even though it is a favorite story for eight year-old boys to tell when assigned talks in Primary. Ammon, they conclude, was a cool dude because he hacked off the arms of the bad guys. Moore takes this event and others and smoothly works them into a believable context.

She creates a tangible world with vivid descriptions of the lifestyle, environment, laws, and culture of the times. Within that framework, Ammon's actions in the fields do not appear reckless, as previous herders of the king's sheep have been executed when they lost sheep due to marauders. Ammon, as the sworn protector of the king and all that is his, is acting in this capacity, and his actions do not seem reckless nor ruthless.  He knows that as a missionary, change will be slow to come; first he must prove himself to the king, and that is what he does. 

This is one event that leads to the miraculous conversion of the king and his wife, and the reforms that take place as a result are key events in this story. The reader, through Ammon's point of view, can see the desires of his heart and the purity of his purpose.  We also see the mighty changes the king implements after his conversion.

Ammon is well-written and thought-provoking. A novel like this, based on careful research and documentation to complement the scriptural account, allows me to understand  and speculate about "how it might have been." The author's sources and notes illustrate a strong foundation for the elements of the storyline that are fictional. Within this context these elements enrich and enhance the scriptural account while staying true to it.

 Moore cites specific sources and I as a reader had confidence in the accuracy of her research. I found myself engrossed in the rich detail of the supplementary information that made the story come to life. It's not often that a writer can balance all of these aspects to write an engrossing novel based on a scriptural account, but Moore does it seamlessly. 

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CTW said...

H.B. Moore is a first rate writer. I love your insight into this novel.

Heather B. Moore said...

Thanks so much for this review, Janet. I really appreciate it.