Red Water: A Novel

Red Water: A Novel

by Judith Freeman
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Red Water: A Novel by Judith Freeman

In 1857, at a place called Mountain Meadows in southern Utah, a band of Mormons and Indians massacred 120 emigrants. Twenty years later, the slaughter was blamed on one man named John D. Lee, previously a member of Brigham Young’s inner circle. Red Water imagines Lee’s extraordinary frontier life through the eyes of three of his nineteen wives. Emma is a vigorous and capable Englishwoman who loves her husband unconditionally. Ann, a bride at thirteen years old, is an independent adventurer. Rachel is exceedingly devout and married Lee to be with her sister, his first wife. These spirited women describe their struggle to survive Utah’s punishing landscape and the poisonous rivalries within their polygamous family, led by a magnetic, industrious, and considerate husband, who was also unafraid of using his faith to justify desire and ambition.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307427434
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 461,040
File size: 595 KB

About the Author

Judith Freeman is the author of three novels–The Chinchilla Farm, Set for Life, and A Desert of Pure Feelingand of Family Attractions, a collection of stories. She lives in California.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Red Water 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most fascinating true stories I have ever read. The author makes you care about the wives of JOhn D.Lee especially his first wife Emma who's story is told in the first person. We learn a lot about the history of these people .
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be one of the most fascinating and compelling books I've read. I was surprised to learn that it is based on historical fact and John D.Lee was in fact a real person with over 18 wives. I was most impressed with Emma's first person narration of her life with John and his wives. The author makes the reader care and hope for the wives in the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Freeman's 'Red Water' as a fictional work is substantiated to be so close to historical fact by the events of those who were called by Brigham Young to leave thier homesteads in the Salt Lake Valley and harvest the unforgiving desert of Southern Utah. Here our childrens clothes, the bricks of our homes, and even our skin is stained 'red' from the soil, the metaphor was articulate and brilliant. As a resident of Washington Utah and a Daughter of a Utah Pioneer I applaude Judith Freeman for her portrayal of this controversial event as a bronze statue of John D. Lee sits in a warehouse in the dark removed by our Washington Utah city council. No massacre could have been undertaken by one man alone, although tragic and not forgotton by those who live here but with the isolation, lack of communication from Salt Lake and their former memberships in other faith, this area was a melding pot of religous fanatics giving meaning to the Biblical parable of putting 'New wine in old bottles.' Lee's hands are likely to be bloody, but as the only man condemned to die for 120 souls slayed seems condesending in theory as Red Water shows he was obviously the communal and church scapegoat, however men act in poor judgement in a perpetual state of fear and hunger. Don't judge them too harshly Dear Readers remembering their mental states after Missouri (the Mormon-Extermination Act still on the books until 1960-70's where it was legal to kill a Mormon), Carthage-and the murder of the Prophet and his brother Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Navoou, and the perilous journey across the plains as my own Great-Grandparents buried 4 of their 5 children in shallow graves along with way. Red Water shows strength in character of 3 women that modeled the lives of our Great-Grandmother's, no matter how silent were not mealy-moused women, but survivors and fighters in their faith who chose their lifestyle of poligamy. Freeman crossed the line slightly as she delves into things sacred to the Mormon people but accomplishes her work with a gift of developing her characters and good story-telling, I could not put this book down. I disagree with the critic from New York who would not leave their name-in the days of fantasy and Harry Potter this is the real deal. Do not pass this one by-a must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
These are stories of pioneers in religion and of the west. I enjoyed this book very much. I had no idea the US used the polygamy issue as a way to divert attention from slavery. In this story is love, survival, care of children and animals, farming, a glimpse into Mormonism and search for self.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Mountain Meadows Massacre is an event in US history full of drama, conflicts, and high emotional stakes. With so much going for you, how can a writer loose? Unfortunately the massacre is only used as a backdrop for some very bland and one dimensional character writing. Additionally, the author passed on the terrific conflict for cheep thrills. Instead of telling a good story, she focuses on titillating her audience with fanatic behavior and sexual situations. The Mormon faith is one with a lot of mystic. The author seems intent on portraying this faith as negatively as possible. Maybe her agenda got in the way of a good story? Pass this one by.