Most helpful positive review
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2003
This is great writing. I was completely taken in by just about everything about this book. I found the characters complex, the scenery beautiful, the language believable. The women were all interesting to me, and I didn't find anywhere that my interest lagged. I even found myself seeing John D. Lee as human for the first time, something even his memoirs were unable to accomplish. I don't know much about the theology or morality of the 19th century Mormon church, so I can't really say whether it was accurate in that regard or not, although I found it believable. I do, however, know a great deal about Mountain Meadows, having read just about everything published about it, including much of the apologist garbage that passes for history written by defenders. I can tell you that I found nothing she wrote about the massacre with which I disagreed, right down to "putting the saddle on the right horse." Brigham Young was directly responsible for ordering the massacre, and John D. Lee was just following orders, although that makes him no less a murderer in my eyes. It is no better defense here than it was at Nuremberg or Mai Lai.
I do confess a bias, however, although different from that of others. I first "met" Captain Alexander Fancher, leader of the Fancher party murdered at the meadows, as I was researching his brother, my great grandfather John Fancher. I found them and their families side by side in the 1850 census of San Diego, California. They had apparently come out together to try their hand at cattle raising and were headed for Tulare county in central California. There I saw a listing of Captain Fancher and his entire family, wife Eliza (whose blood stained dress Emma was wearing in the scene of her great humiliation), age 28, son Hampton, age 12, William age 10, Mary, age 9, Thomas, age 7, Martha, age 4, and lastly the twins, both 1 and a half, Sarah and Margaret, for whom my mother was named. All of these people would be murdered at Mountain Meadows by John D. Lee and those he led and followed. Even the twins, a mere 8 years old at the time of the massacre, did not survive. Only Kit Carson Fancher and Traphina (Emma's apparent accusor in the dress scene) survived, both born after 1850. Alexander and family had returned to Arkansas to collect family and friends to bring out to the California paradise and were headed to meet his brother when they met their fate. His brother John, with whom Captain Fancher was very close, didn't know of his brother's fate for some time after the massacre, and didn't know the truth until many years later.
So you see, it takes quite a gifted writer to humanize someone like John Doyle Lee in my eyes. I even found him sympathetic at times. Freeman has found a way to zero in on one of the great mysteries of the Mountain Meadows Massacre: how otherwise decent men, who love and are loved, could find it in their hearts to commit such a slaughter of innocents. This is by far the best fictional account of the massacre and its aftermath that I have ever read.
For those who are interested in finding out more about the massacre, I highly recommend The Mountain Meadows Massacre, by Juanita Brooks, and even more highly, Blood of the Prophets:Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Will Bagley.