Powerful, historically based novel of survival, beliefs, adaptation and resistance.

The Wives of Billie's Mountain

An elderly woman reflects on her early years living as a Mormon on the run in author Simmons’ absorbing debut novel, based on a true story.

In 1898 Utah, 10-year-old Mary Higginsen, her nearly blind mother, and her brothers and sisters are taken by their father to Billie’s Mountain to live in a cave to avoid his arrest for polygamy. Mary and her relatives are a second family; Father has another wife to whom he is legally wed. After helping them to settle in, Father returns to town to his first family, leaving elder son Zebedee in charge. Believing the separation from Father to be temporary, the children work nearly constantly, cooking, washing and planting, although their efforts are sometimes for naught. Earnest Zebedee remains thankful for small mercies, but recalcitrant Mary has doubts: “If this was God’s idea of a blessing, it certainly was a sorry one.” In winter, supplies run dangerously low. As weeks pass without Father, Mary is increasingly angered by her family’s blind trust and their predisposition to suffer while Father’s other family presumably lives in comfort. Facing frostbite and starvation, they are rescued by a neighbor, Brother Bigler. He, too, practices plural marriage and is drawn to Mary, who resists his advances. She realizes the significance of polygamy (multiple wives ensure progeny), but Mary has no wish to be submissive or to marry. Although initially a survival tale, recalling some of the sacrifices in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It (2008), the novel skillfully addresses the claustrophobic, cultlike burden of belief and how a willful individual like Mary could be coerced to comply. Through no fault of their own, the Higginsens are treated like “beggar children” by one of Brother Bigler’s wives, who will later risk her own status in an act of kindness to Mary. Perhaps Brother’s wives aren’t as happy as they claim. Sensing the incongruity, resourceful Mary both adapts and rebels. In a genre saturated with faux apocalyptic tales of teens in peril, here’s an emotionally wrenching narrative out of U.S. history.

Powerful, historically based novel of survival, beliefs, adaptation and resistance.

Pub Date: April 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615998572

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Helper Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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