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Riding in the Shadows of Saints: A Woman's Story of Motorcycling the Mormon Trail Hardcover – July 19, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; First Edition edition (July 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400045428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400045426
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,510,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Raised a Mormon, Richman had heard stories of her seven great-great-grandmothers walking from Nauvoo, Ill., to the promised land of Salt Lake City in the mid-19th century. Long after leaving the religion and going through a middle-age pensive period, Richman, whose writing has appeared in the Progressive, decided to make the same journey, albeit alone and on a motorcycle. The result is a mixture of roadtrip musings, quirky adventure tales and spiritual reflections, with a healthy dose of unresolved family issues. It's an unusual blend, and those who aren't curious about traveling by motorcycle may find themselves skimming through the parts about driving in the rain or why more women should ride Harleys. But Richman's other adventures—both physical and spiritual—prove universally compelling. Especially notable are her thoughts on religion, which have a refreshing air of detachment. As Richman's trip progresses, she goes deeper into self-reflection, finally admitting that an "hour's ride offers more introspection than a year's worth of expensive therapy." She gradually unravels her emotions about her mother, a devout Mormon disappointed in Richman's lack of faith, reaching a resolution by the time Salt Lake City emerges on the horizon. Map.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Jana Richman understands that we can never escape our connections to our ancestors, and neither would we want to. In this busy and disconnected world, Richman has taken the time both to make peace with and embrace her heritage; her story serves as an inspiration to us all.” —Dawn Prince-Hughes, author of Songs of the Gorilla Nation

“An extraordinary story of a woman who travels cross-country on a bike—the rip-roaring, motorized, macho kind—in search of what it means to have and keep faith. Richman leavens the history of Mormonism—America’s fascinating, authentically homegrown religion—with her investigation into her roots and her adventures riding the Mormon trail. Like all great memoirs, Riding in the Shadows of Saints engages the heart while delighting the mind.” —Fenton Johnson, author of Keeping Faith

“ In this profoundly appealing memoir, Jana Richman travels a road that connects her to family, history, and the haunting landscapes and haunted people of the West. What she finds along the way makes for a marvelous journey—and a most memorable book.” —Gregory McNamee, author of Gila and Blue Mountains Far Away

“Faith for Jana Richman, who can trace her Mormon roots back to the founding of the Church, is not a dogma but a process of engagement with place, history, and mystery. She writes with disarming honesty, and the wonderful surprise of the book is to witness the strength and integrity of five generations of women who managed to empower themselves within the belly of religious patriarchy. This book makes a significant contribution to feminizing the history of the American West.” —Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Writing the Sacred into the Real

“A poignant mother/daughter love affair, a heart-wrenching father/daughter schism, a classic coming-of-age story, and a timeless quest for spiritual meaning. That its setting is the splendor of the American West only adds to the book’s richness.” —Sally Denton, author of Faith and Betrayal

More About the Author

Jana was born and raised in Utah's west desert, the daughter of a small-time rancher and a hand-wringing Mormon mother. With the exception of a few misguided years spent in New York City trying to make a fortune on Wall Street, she has lived her entire life--more than 50 years--west of the hundredth meridian. She writes about issues that threaten to destroy the essence of the west: overpopulation, overdevelopment, rapidly dwindling water aquifers, stupidity, ignorance, arrogance and greed. She also writes about passion, beauty, and love.

Customer Reviews

Perhaps that too, will come in another book.
Michael Anson Wright
The author seemed to have come to a resolution with her mother's disappointment in her, but we were not privy to any real conclusion, even if we cared.
Finding one's own spiritual way and really feeling true emotions through it, is a very tough road to travel!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Anson Wright on December 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written book. In lucid and often lyrical prose the author describes her journey along the Mormon trail by motorcycle, following the route from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City taken by several of her female ancestors and, on the way, recounts brief histories of their determination and faith in spite of horrendous obstacles. In parallel, she delves into her own struggle with Mormonism and arrives at a deeper understanding, and a redefinition, of her own faith. As the daughter of a deeply believing Mormon mother and a renegade father ("a jack Mormon") she has a lot to contend with. Her motorcycle becomes the symbol as well as the carrier of her uncertainty.

There is enough Mormon history provided to satisfy the casual reader, but the most heartening aspect of her presentation is that it doesn't fall along the usual polarizing lines: Ms. Richman offers both praise and criticism of the Mormon hierarchy and its leaders. The stories of her female ancestors along the trail are often heart-stopping in the intensity of their suffering and the depth of their faith. The book is filled with good writing and acute insights into many of the people she meets along the way.

The book left me wanting more. For one thing, by the end her situation is much like her father's - she recognizes how strongly tied she is to Mormonism, though she will never rejoin the church. I wanted the book to provide more insight into her father's character and attitudes as a way of understanding her own.

For another, throughout the book her husband (who stays home in Tucson) is described as a perfect man, loving, kind, thoughtful, supportive, insightful - almost too much to believe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon on November 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a lifelong Gentile, I chose to read this book for two reasons – I love riding motorcycles and I am fascinated by the genesis of Mormonism. I had high hopes for Riding in the Shadows of Saints, but ultimately I came away disappointed not only with Richman’s treatment of motorcycling and Mormon history but also with her sentimentality, her endless weeping, and the disjointed structure of the book.

It seemed as though Richman never fully decided what sort of book she was writing. It was advertised as a sort of spiritual travelogue, a retracing of her ancestors arduous journey along the Mormon trail, and if she had limited her scope to just that I think it would have been a successful book. Instead, Richman is constantly breaking this natural dual-story flow with unnecessary reminiscences of her parents and long bouts of needless editorializing. Even within the historical thread of the story she bit off more than she could chew, following multiple parties of pilgrims and three separate great-great-grandmothers. With so many characters to follow amidst Richman’s miasma of emotion the reader is never allowed close proximity to these courageous women, and that’s a shame.

As for the present-day travelogue portion of the book, it isn’t until page 95 that we really get going down the road. Once we finally do start cruising along, the experience feels joyless and frightening, and it made me wonder why she didn’t just take a car after all. Seemingly half of her motorcycle passages involve lengthy descriptions of either pulling into or out of parking spots. Not exactly gripping material. When it comes to travel writing Richman is certainly no Bill Bryson or William Least Heat-Moon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Don Tyler on March 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a woman rider, it is very difficult to find any books that deal with why we ride, as well as how we ride. This book was not only interesting from the riding angle, the Mormon Historical view was really good and should be geared at anyone that was raised in the Mormon faith, yet drifted away for various reasons. The chapters dealing with riding on & immediately after Sept 11th defined the sense that we are cast in a situation that no person since the Pearl Harbor days understands. Read this not only for journey, but keep it to read again this winter. (review written by Bobbie Tyler)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By libraryjeans on January 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you're mormon, post mormon, motorcycle enthusiast, westerner, feminist, post feminist, or a reader who just likes a good story, then you'll enjoy this book.

Richman writes truthfully about her experience as a new Mormon pioneer - paving her way out of rather than into the Mormon Church. She parallels her solo motorcycle trip from Nauvoo, IL to Salt Lake during the fall of 2001 with the faithful (and fateful) journey her decedents who traveled the Mormon Trail 150 years earlier.

The motorcycle metaphors may tire some, but I thought they added to the story. On the whole it is a good story. I felt a connection to her sense of pride in the pioneering spirit of her family side-by-side with her inability to live with such unquestioning faith.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By B. Richardson, author of "Tributary" on June 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
This was exactly the right book at exactly the right time. I'm so grateful I found it. If you need a shot of summer courage, try "Riding in the Shadows of Saints."

I didn't know much about the Mormon trail. And I've never ridden a motorcycle across-country alone. But Jana Richman decided--at age 45--to write about riding along the route her ancestors took from Illinois to Utah 150 years ago, and she does it with humor, daring, humility and grace.

It doesn't hurt that my ancestors were Mormon pioneers. The accomplishments and trials Richman describes in "Riding in the Shadows of Saints" were all the more interesting for that. No one but Mormons would stop along their 1,300 mile trek West to build stopover cities along the way for the faithful to follow: homes built in a day, ferries constructed, and at one stop, more than a thousand acres of land were "cleared, plowed, planted and fenced" in one week before the lead group moved on Westward. A thousand acres. I planted a quarter acre once, and paid a crew to clear it before I started. Industry and wholehearted engagement, amist spectacular sacrifice and loss and suffering. That is at the heart of the Mormon pioneer. 50,000 of them tried the journey which Richman rode in 2001, through rain and wind and mud. But they rode in wagons or pushed handcarts, with the fresh, furious venom of the Gentiles, who cast them out of Illinois, pushing them onward. That sort of stamina and resolve don't simply vanish. They haunt their progeny for generations.

Richman shows, beautifully, the strength of her great-great grandmothers on the trail, and the less showy but dearly and truly lived bravery of her mother.
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