I had a bit of a delay in finishing this book. I picked up a nasty cold, and I couldn’t concentrate enough to read something new. Once I got better, it didn’t take me long to finish it. As a caveat, I should say that I am not Mormon, and while I had heard of this particular chapter in American history, I am not that familiar with it. I do not know the background or beliefs of the author, and I did not look into that before reading the book or writing this review, preferring to let the book stand on it’s own.
American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857, by Sally Denton, is the story of a large group of emigrants who were murdered by Mormon militia on their way to California. To understand the tragic story and the controversy surrounding it, however, one needs to know the events that lead up to the massacre and what happened afterward. Ms. Denton does a good job of bringing together many sources and using them to tell the history of the Mormon church, the wagon train, the people involved in the tragedy, and the many effects after the fact. 155 years later, there is still debate over who ordered and orchestrated the massacre, and this book seeks to prove that the orders originated with Brigham Young, then leader of the Latter Day Saints.
The writing was clear and descriptive, and the narrative was well organized. Throughout the book, however, the writing comes across as condescending towards Mormon beliefs. If there are (at least) two sides to every story, this book only tells one of them, especially once the narrative get close to the actual tragedy. I found myself flipping to the Notes section to find out who the author was quoting when she wrote “one newspaper” or “an historian” to see how reputable her source was. Many of her sources were secondary, which didn’t help matters.
I don’t feel that I wasted my time reading this book, but I also don’t feel like I got the complete picture. For now, because my TBR shelves have reached frightening proportions and I am fighting the urge to bring home books from the local library, I will take the historical tidbits I learned and make a mental note to look into the event more at some future date.
PS- If you see a review here for Outlander or Behind the Beautiful Forevers or The Night Circus, you’ll know I gave in and lent them from the library instead of reading off my shelves…
PPS- If you’re just joining us, you can see the list of books I’ve read so far this year by clicking on the tab at the top of the page.