A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; AND NEVER YIELD by

A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; AND NEVER YIELD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is hard luck that two memorable novels, both dealing with that early period of Mormon history, the settlements of Missouri and Illinois, and with the challenge to beloved wives of the first groping acceptance of the doctrine of ""plural marriage"" for the leaders, should come within three weeks of each other. In both cases, the husband is a staunch believer, an unflagging follower of the Prophet Joseph Smith; in both cases the wife is a doubter, following only out of loyalty to a beloved husband. The Pryor book tells of a joyous marriage, of agreement on the part of the wife to the necessity of ""plural marriage"" and the friendship between the women -- and then of the collapse of the first wife faced with an emotional strain greater than she had realized. The Sorenson book pictures also a happy marriage, until the first rifts of doubt come with the creeping suspicion of the fact of ""plural marriage"", a long illness during which the second marriage takes place, and utter incompatability from the first. Another difference, which may contribute to making it possible to sell the books as supplementing one another is that the Pryor book starts with the Mormon immigrants from Ohio setting out for the Missouri village of Far West. It tells -- almost too graphically -- of the massacre of Haun's Mill; of the forced departure from Missouri, back to a new colony at Nauvoo it goes up to the murder of Joseph Smith. The Sorenson book concentrates wholly on the Nauvoo development, through to the enforced departure for a territory outside the United States. I liked both books, found them fascinating reading, but felt that the Sorenson book was more even in its handling of the whole family situation, and a better rounded picture of the Mormon community life and spirit. Neither book can be tagged as ""for"" or ""against"" Mormonism. Both will probably be banned by the Mormon Church, though -- to an outsider -- they would seem to give an extraordinarily fair picture of the intolerance, the cruelty, the prejudice of the un-understanding Gentile world without. Through the persons of the central women characters, however, the doubts which must have tortured even convinced believers, are shown in many of their aspects. Both books make an important contribution to a better understanding of a dark period and facet of our history.

Publisher: Knopf; Macmillan