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Faith and Betrayal: A Pioneer Woman's Passage in the American Westby Sally Denton
Synopses & Reviews
The richly told story of a nineteenth-century woman–the author’s great-great-grandmother–whose religious faith was betrayed and regained on a journey across the American West.
In the 1850s, Jean Rio was a recently widowed English mother of seven. Rich, well educated, musically gifted, deeply spiritual, and increasingly dismayed by the social injustices she saw around her, she was moved by the promises of Mormon missionaries and set out from England for Utah. On her fifty-six-day Atlantic crossing, she began keeping a diary, and this extraordinary chronicle is the basis of Sally Denton’s book.
We follow Jean Rio from New Orleans, where she disembarks, up the Mississippi by riverboat, and, finally, westward by wagon train. We see her family transformed by necessity–mastering frontier skills, surviving storms, finding their own food, overcoming illness and injury–during the five months it takes them to reach Zion.
We see her initial enthusiasm turn to disillusionment: She is forced to surrender her money to the church. She realizes she has been lied to about polygamy–Mormons do practice it–which she detests. Acts of Mormon violence against nonbelievers repel her. Her musical skills are buried beneath the daily rigors of farming. Two of her sons flee to California. We witness her seventeen-year struggle to make peace with her situation before she, too, escapes to California–to freedom, a career as a midwife, and a new religion that fulfills her.
Dramatic and powerful, Faith and Betrayal is the moving account of one woman’s gamble in an emerging America, and a valuable addition to the history of both the Mormon experience and the long saga of immigrant pioneer women.
From the Hardcover edition.
In the 1850s, Jean Rio, a deeply spiritual widow, was moved by the promises of Mormon missionaries and set out from England for Utah. Traveling across the Atlantic by steamer, up the Mississippi by riverboat, and westward by wagon, Rio kept a detailed diary of her extraordinary journey.
In Faith and Betrayal, Sally Denton, an award-winning journalist and Rio’s great-great-granddaughter, uses the long-lost diary to re-create Rio’s experience. While she marvels at the great natural beauty of Utah, Rio’s enthusiasm for her new life turns to disillusionment over Mormon polygamy and violence against nonbelievers, as well as the harshness of frontier life. She sets out for California, where she finds a new religion and the freedom she longed for. Unusually intimate and full of vivid detail, this is an absorbing story of a quintessential American pioneer.
Sally Denton is the author of American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857; The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs, and Murder; and, with Roger Morris, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947--2000. She received Western Heritage Awards in 2002 and 2004, a Lannan Literary grant in 2000, and, for her body of work, the Nevada Silver Pen Award of 2003 for distinguished literary achievement. Her award-winning investigative reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and American Heritage. She lives with her three children in New Mexico.
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Biography » Historical