The Colony: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land

Sally Denton. Liveright, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63149-807-7

This intriguing portrait of fundamentalist Mormons in Mexico focuses on the 2019 massacre of three women and six children traveling by caravan on a desolate stretch of road between the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Investigative journalist Denton (American Massacre), who is a descendant of polygamist Mormons, describes the military-style attack in stark detail and shares evidence from the resulting investigation pointing to a local drug cartel. But the focus is on the history of the LeBaron family, from its 19th-century split with the Mormon church in Salt Lake City and establishment of Colonia LeBaron in northern Mexico, to the brotherly feud that gripped the clan from the 1970s into the 1990s, resulting in dozens of “blood atonement” murders meant to “provide the victim with eternal salvation when his or her blood was spilled into the earth,” and the family’s recent efforts to stop cartel-organized kidnappings in the region. The LeBarons, owners of pecan farms and other resource-heavy enterprises, also engaged in long-standing water rights disputes with their neighbors. Drawing on interviews with former “sister wives,” Denton brings nuance and sensitivity to her discussion of the LeBarons’ polygamist practices and the status of women in the community. The result is a fascinating tale of religion, violence, and family secrets. (June)
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