True Sisters by Sandra Dallas
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
True Sisters, a novel based on actual historical events, revolves around four women as they navigate through the most desperate, difficult, life-threatening situation one can imagine. In 1856, a group of Mormon converts were encouraged by Brigham Young himself to journey with hand carts from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, Utah in search of the promised land. The Martin Handcart Company contains four women whose lives will be changed irrevocably by this 1300 mile walk. Nannie has just suffered being abandoned by her fiance on their wedding day and is traveling to Salt Lake with her sister and brother-in-law, Louisa is married to one of the most important church leaders and believes he communicates directly with God, Jessie is traveling with her brothers and dreaming of a bright future for their family, and Anne is a non-believer but was forced to accompany her Mormon husband to Salt Lake after he sold everything they owned and gave all the money to the church.
Would you believe True Sisters was my first experience reading Sandra Dallas? I know she’s written a ton of novels but for some reason I just hadn’t gotten to her yet. I think it was good that I didn’t have any expectations going into this book, because it was a very good read for me.
I was captivated with this novel from the first page, mainly because of how well I connected to each of the four main characters. Each woman comes from a different background and perspective on their current situation, but not one is more sympathetic than the rest. Rather, the four women together make a complete picture of what the real people who made this journey over a hundred and fifty years ago may have been like. By the end of the novel, Dallas had taken me on a journey to get to know four fully realized women and I felt tied to each one of them in a different way. It was truly satisfying to see their personalities grow and change over the course of the novel as they were forced to grow up and become more independent in many ways.
There’s no way around the fact that the events in True Sisters are truly devastating. These people suffered for their faith. Historical accounts tell us that something like a third of the people who started the journey to Salt Lake City did not make it there. It is clear that Dallas did her research in preparing for this novel as her attention to detail is meticulous – while the specifics of these characters and their choices are entirely fiction. I was on the verge of tears multiple times while reading this book because there are just so many things that happen that are SO sad! But Dallas managed to bring some measure of hope throughout the novel as well, which is what made me compulsively keep reading – I just KNEW things had to turn around for these people and I anxiously waited for Dallas to show me how that was possible.
I really, really liked this one. I’ll definitely be reading more by Sandra Dallas. For those of you more familiar with her work, which novel should I read next?