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From the Trade Paperback edition.
“A great, often scary American story.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Rich in the history of the time and redolent with strong personalities, Sally Denton’s newest book is a compelling look at a slice of America through the lens of an unlikely pioneer.” –Santa Fe Journal
“As taut as a mytery and as lucid as journalism, Faith and Betrayal is both intimate and epic.”–The New Mexican
From the Hardcover edition.
|Jean Rio's Family Tree||x|
|Preface: An Extraordinary Woman of Ordinary Virtues||xiii|
|1||"Worth a Long Walk to See"||3|
|2||A Wine Cask on the Channel||5|
|3||These Latter Days||25|
|4||Committed to the Deep||43|
|5||Snags and Sawyers||64|
|7||A Life of Toil||111|
|8||Through the Veil||140|
|9||One Household of Faith||162|
|Epilogue: Peace at Last||176|
Posted October 24, 2007
'Faith and Betrayal' tells the story of Jean Rio Baker, an Englishwoman who converted to Mormonism and emigrated to Utah in the early 1850s. The main primary source material for any understanding of Mrs. Baker's life is her emigrant journal. The journal itself covers an emigration period of nine months, is largely silent for the eighteen years that Mrs. Baker was in Utah, contains an entry at the end of that period alluding to Mrs. Baker's economic and religious disappointment during her time in Utah, and ends with a few entries made after she settled in California with other family members. Mrs. Baker's journal has been excerpted or included in several anthologies and collections, including 'Saints without Halos' and 'Audacious Women.' As a literary and historical document, Mrs. Baker's journal stands on its own, and a book-length treatment of her life would seem to be of questionable value absent the discovery or production of additional primary source material. However, Sally Denton provides little in the way of scholarship or original research in her book. Ms. Denton states at the outset her frustration that the L.D.S. church has gotten so much mileage out of the journal as a representation of the Mormon emigrant experience while failing to give equal billing to the 'loss of faith' portion that is the crux of Ms. Denton's book. Ms. Denton states that the purpose of her book is to 'restore' Mrs. Baker's voice that the L.D.S. church has 'distorted.' Unfortunately, what the reader hears more often than not is Ms. Denton's voice, a voice that oftentimes is not only unsupported by the historical record, but is contrary to it in many respects. Not content with providing a running paraphrase of Mrs. Baker's journal, Ms. Denton cannot resist padding the journal to make Mrs. Baker a more active participant in the events described in the journal. However, Ms. Denton's use of dramatic license becomes more problematic in relation to the absence of journal entries during Mrs. Baker's time in Utah. Based on the one journal entry expressing Mrs. Baker's disappointment with life as it turned out in Utah, Ms. Denton attempts to detail the course of Mrs. Baker's disillusionment over the past eighteen years for which the journal is otherwise silent. Ms. Denton attributes very specific attitudes and beliefs to Mrs. Baker that find no support in the record: in Ms. Denton's telling, Mrs. Baker is personally repulsed by and vehemently opposed to polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Mormon doctrine of salvation, the Mormon principle of consecration, etc. Ms. Denton explains away Mrs. Baker's actual silence on any one of these topics by asserting that the atmosphere in nineteenth-century Mormon society was so repressive that a free-thinking woman like Mrs. Baker was sufficiently intimidated from confiding her innermost thoughts to her private journal. With this sleight of hand, Ms. Denton effectively turns Mrs. Baker into an empty vessel onto which Ms. Denton can project Ms. Denton's personal objections to the Mormon religion and experience as well as many of her modern-day sensibilities. Yet Ms. Denton represents Mrs. Baker's undocumented feelings and views on particular items with such certainty and specificity that one wonders whether Ms. Denton is channeling Mrs. Baker's spirit. Many of Ms. Denton's factual assertions about Mrs. Baker's life and family are demonstrably false. Key among these is Ms. Denton's portrayal of Mrs. Baker and several of her children's removal to California as a calculated and dangerous 'escape from Mormonism.' The journal itself makes clear that Mrs. Baker accompanied a sick friend to California as a personal nurse, and had intended to return to Utah but was persuaded by her resident son to stay in California. Ms. Denton supports her 'escape' storyline by vague references to family history or tradition, but only ends up contradicting herself. For instance, she claims that certain of Mrs. Baker'sWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.