"Gabriel has only seconds to realize that they must leave everything behind, even the animals and the tools. He blinks. How can he tell the others?"

An unholy trio of bigotry, fear, and religious persecution hovers like a malevolent cloud over this narrative of Mormon settlers in the American Midwest of the1800s. Cruel, oppressive, and violent behavior repeatedly confronts the principal characters in Stienon’s historical novel. Yet it is not the monstrous conduct of their persecutors that will remain with you at story’s end. Rather, it is the faith, strength, and resolve of the oppressed that will surely leave the most lasting impression.

After the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith is killed in Illinois, many believers followed Brigham Young westward. Others, however, remained in the Midwest as followers of James Strang and attempted to begin a new life on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. The majority of Stienon’s chronicle is set there and dramatizes the life of a man named Gabriel plus his immediate and extended family. While he prospers as the community’s blacksmith and doctor, non-Mormons constantly harass his friends and loved ones. Though able to withstand the perils and hardships of frontier life, the settlers are eventually unable to deal with their persecutors. Their leader, Strang, is murdered, and the Mormons are rounded up, stripped of all their worldly possessions, then put on ships that ripped families asunder and scattered them to the winds.

Stienon does a first-rate job of making the times and the atrocious events achingly human. Her compelling portrayals of births, deaths, hazardous work, and harsh environments—plus the all too human emotions of envy, fear, love, and loss—fill her tale with memorable moments. Joining this author’s fateful journey back to Beaver Island will duly reward anyone interested in history or captivating storytelling.

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