cover image True Sisters

True Sisters

Sandra Dallas. St. Martin’s, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-00502-1

In Mormon history, any mention of the Martin handcart company is almost invariably accompanied by the term “ill-fated,” as befits one of pioneer history’s most tragic blunders. In 1856, an immigrant band, hampered by poorly constructed handcarts and a late start to its 1,300-mile westward trek, was caught in a terrible blizzard in Wyoming that claimed the lives (or the fingers and toes) of scores of Mormon converts. Dallas (The Bride’s House; Prayers for Sale) tells the story of the Martin Handcart Company through the eyes of several fictional women characters, who come to life in the author’s imagination as real flesh-and-blood participants. Although the first half moves slowly, Dallas’s character exposition is strong, and the latter half becomes more gripping as the catastrophe unfolds. One shortcoming is the novel’s sometimes one-dimensional male characters, who are pompous, selfish, or weak. But the focus is on strong women and the beautiful relationships they can create even in impossible circumstances. As such, this is a memorable story. (Apr.)