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Faith and Betrayal: A Pioneer Woman's Passage in the American West Paperback – July 11, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Denton, a journalist who previously explored Mormon history in American Massacre, relays and interprets a British ancestor's experiences in crossing an ocean and a continent to join the Latter-day Saints in Utah. Jean Rio Baker was, by Denton's assessment, a wealthy Victorian woman who "fell sway" to the message of Mormon missionaries in the 1840s. Not long after her husband died, she packed up her children and other members of her extended family and embarked from England on the arduous voyage to Utah. This short biography is at its best when it adheres closely to Rio Baker's own journal of her experiences on the ocean (where she tragically buried a child at sea) and the plains, which she vividly describes in fascinating detail. But for the long stretches of Rio Baker's life where she either did not keep a journal or it has not survived, readers are left with Denton's own rather angry assessment of how her great-great-grandmother was deceived and betrayed by the Mormons. Unfortunately, the book is riddled with numerous factual errors about 19th-century Mormonism and the Book of Mormon, which may cause readers to question other elements in the biography. Despite the sloppy research and some unfair caricatures, Denton portrays her ancestor as a resourceful, independent mother and midwife who heroically survived her religious disillusionment. (Apr. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Journalist and historian Denton (American Massacre, 2003) traces the westward journey of her great-great grandmother, Mormon convert Jean Rio Griffiths. Basing this chronicle largely on Jean Rio's diaries, the author is able to paint an intimate portrait of one uniquely American experience. Leaving her comfortable home in England, middle-aged widow Jean Rio traveled across the ocean, the plains, and the mountains with her seven children, seeking the elusive Eden promised by the Mormon missionaries. Finally reaching Utah and the Mormon settlement, a deeply spiritual Jean Rio grew quickly disillusioned with the autocratic Mormon leadership and the practice of polygamy. Ultimately renouncing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she reclaimed her independence and settled in California. Though Denton's kinship to her subject tends to color her objectivity, her attention to historical and descriptive detail enhances this testament to the pioneer spirit. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400034736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400034734
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,321,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sally Denton is an investigative reporter, author, and historian who writes about the subjects others ignore--from a drug conspiracy in Kentucky to organized crime in Las Vegas; from corruption within the Mormon Church to the hidden history of Manifest Destiny; from one of America's bitterest political campaigns to the powerful forces arrayed against Franklin D. Roosevelt. She has an extensive background in print and broadcast journalism, including newspapers, magazines, and television, and is the author of seven books of narrative history. While the subjects of her books at first glance seem disparate, they are actually unified by a central theme of the exploration of subjects in American history that have been neglected or marginalized. What she has done in her 30-year career is to explore the unmentioned truths about America--what the eminent scholar Daniel Boorstin called "Hidden History." She is a Guggenheim fellow,a Woodrow Wilson public scholar, a Hoover Institute Media Fellow, the recipient of two Western Heritage Awards, and has been inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. She was born and raised in Nevada, where she began her journalism career in 1976.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on July 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jean Rio, Mormon convert, traveled from England with a large group of people to settle in the barren land of "Deseret", which is now modern day Utah. Fed by her faith, her ultimate belief that she was right in her convictions, and a determined spirit, Jean not only survived this perilous journey, but helped others survive it along the way. Sally Denton, Jean's great great granddaughter, recounts her relatives momnumental journey in the small and quiet book, "Faith and Betrayal".

Using Jean Rio's diary as a record of account in this book, Denton reconstructs the history of her family, and the decision of Jean Rio to leave her life of priviledge in England to the great unknown. Starting off in luxury, Jean converts to Mormonism and decides her faith should bring her to America and Utah, as one of those brave pioneers. The rest of the story recounts Jean's life in Utah, her disillusionment with Mormonism, and her eventual resettling to California.

Jean's trek across the United States would earn my five stars by itself. Denton's reconstruction of the journey of Jean and her entourage is compelling and amazing. I long since knew about the travels of Mormon pioneers, but never has the perilous journey been so wonderfully reconstructed. It was amazing to read of Jean's growth during the trip, finding skills she never knew she had. This is one pioneer woman who deserves her story to be told.

Much has been and will be said about Denton's view on Mormonism, and her "obvioius bias" and several will discount her story by their "factual errors". Any book written that dares suggest that a religion, such as Mormonism, has faults, is bound to be attacked. It is almost tiresome that it happens, but alas, it is. At least Denton has said her peace, and has shared it in a wonderful book.

I highly recommend this story for anyone who wants a intrguing story about a woman who had the courage to follow her convictions, and live her life based on her beliefs.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Philly Kristin on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written and well researched book about the pioneering experience from a woman's perspective. Laura Ingalls Wilder gave us all a gift there, but not as much from an intellectual or an adult point of view.

Even more, this is a fascinating insight into the early Mormon church and how it started, recruited members, and moved around the country, before settling in Salt Lake City.

If you're not a huge history buff (which I am not), but love learning it through the actual human experience, then you will find this book as fascinating as I.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By a mom on March 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
I too am one of Jean Rio Griffith Baker's great-granddaughters. Faith and Betrayal takes an amazing women's diary of her immigration to Utah, and distorts it. I also have Jean Rio Baker's type-written diary and other family history written by her grandchildren. The author Sally Denton ends her book with, "For so many years, Jean Rio was deprived her voice. Then the church distorted it. My goal has been to restore it (183)." After reading this book I feel that Denton's true goal was to make her own voice and opinion heard. Out of all the things I have read, Denton is the one that truly distorted what Jean Rio had to say to fit her one-sided beliefs, which are in opposition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also known as Mormons. Not only did I find Denton's information one- sided, I also feel Denton left out a lot of significant information, or simply had it wrong. It would have been good to have had Denton list more of her sources in her notes if they do have a true source like she did some others.
Denton writes "How candid she was with Chauncey West about her decision to leave the church is unclear, though she brought all of her belongings with her (162)." I would like you to read what Jean Rio wrote herself in her diary: "November 22, 1869. I have the chance of going to California with Mr. and Mrs. West. I shall then see my two boys again and hope to enjoy the time; how long I shall remain is uncertain, but I have learned to lean on my Heavenly Father for direction, so I do not feel much concern about the future." In reading what Jean Rio wrote, I do not agree that her plans in going to California had anything to do with leaving the church. I feel she was just going with the Wests to help because Mr.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Fullerton on August 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the PW review states, the book is riddled with factual errors--large and small. It is also full of the author's anti-religious and anti-Mormon prejudice; events and people are always cast in the dimmest light (except the author's own ancestor and family) and Denton seems unable to imagine a religious worldview. I would have like more direct quoting from Jean Rio Baker's journals and a more dispassionate point of view that accounted for the reason people of the 19th century were so compelled to leave their home countries to emigrate to Utah and take part in what Mormonism seemed to promise. I bought this book to get a sense--from Jean Rio Baker--of who she was and why she converted to Mormonism, but the factual errors and value judgments cloud the book's credibility so much that it did not really address those issues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tractor Driver on August 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a totally unexpected summer read. I decided to look up ancestors and found that this book was written about my great, great, great grandmother. I knew of the piano crossing the prairie and even have visited her grave in Antioch, but to read between the lines of her diary was really fun. A must read!
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