Friday, May 25, 2012

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas *****

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas is an historical novel of the Mormon Trail and the ill-fated Martin Party that left too late in the season of 1856 ... pushing handcarts. About 25% of the party died of accidents, starvation and exposure. To put this perspective, the Donner Party had a death rate of almost 50%, but because the Donner group was so much smaller, Martin Party deaths were four times as great. This might be the worse disaster of the many treks across the plains.

The story is told through the eyes of several of the women ... a woman who was living well in England and gave up everything to be with her husband and children, even though she did not convert to Mormonism; two sisters, one married and one not; a midwife with knowledge of herbal remedies; and a young girl who escaped forced prostitution.

The women deal with cooking and washing on the trail, delivering babies, and mourning the death children and parents. This is a saga of death ... at almost every point of the journey people are dying ... those that don't die, have limbs amputated to save their lives.

Though this is a novel of strong women and sisterhood, the mid-18th century and the Mormon doctrine of plural marriages leaves these women with little alternative but to obey and support their husbands and the male leaders.

Though the Mormons are presented as friendly and supportive, the leadership seems to embody the worst of religious demagoguery. The author presents a stark contrast between the arrogant male hierarchy and the caring, supportive females caught up in the voyage. The book is a wonderful story of the historical migration across the plains to the west and the strong women who made so much of it possible.

1 comment:

UK said...

"True Sisters" is about the Mormon Handcart catastrophe of 1856. The Mormon leaders at that time recruited many people from Europe to come to America to eventually reside in Zion (Salt Lake City, Utah). Those immigrants had to travel to Iowa City, IA, where they were to load up handcarts and walk 1,300 miles to Salt Lake City. Many of the immigrants couldn't afford a wagon and a team of horses to make this journey. This trip to Zion was all supposed to occur before the snow storms across that region in early Fall. Though, they all got a later start than planned. One of the other biggest quandaries the travelers had was that the handcarts were made out of green wood. Because of the poor wood quality the carts often broke down and slowed the trip. This band of immigrants got caught in a horrid blizzard in Wyoming, which ends up claiming many lives and injures many more.

This book focuses on the story of several fictional women characters that are on this trek to Zion. These women include: Anne who is from England and she hasn't yet fully embraced the Mormon faith; Ella & Nannie who are from Scotland and they are sisters; Louisa, who's married to Thales, the charismatic leader of the group; and finally there's Jessie, a single young lady traveling with her two brothers. Jessie and Nannie are the only single women on this journey but, they are hoping to find marriage once they arrive in Zion. The author puts the reader right into all the hardships that befall these women. There's lack of food, terrible weather and much more. As anyone would, the women all start to have their doubts about the trip and their faith waivers.