cover image Tributary


Barbara K. Richardson. Torrey House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-937226-04-6

A quest to belong is the theme of this novel from Richardson (Guest House), whose lyrical prose and heartfelt characters shine through. Orphan girl Clair Martin is defined by a large strawberry birthmark that covers one side of her face, making her an object of scorn and suspicion in Brigham City, Utah, in the 1860s. But her disfigurement also protects her from polygamy, making her an outsider in a society that is preoccupied with righteousness but also has an undercurrent of violence. Eager to find her birth parents, Clair moves to New Orleans and Ocean Springs, Miss., before returning to Mormon country on her own terms as a farmer. As she faces the challenges of making the desert bloom, Clair comes to understand that family is not primarily birth ties but the bonds of the heart, and that people are like tributaries—although they carry all the disaster that has gone before, “good comes through all the same.” This novel has much to offer, including a balanced perspective on a controversial time in Mormon history, but its greatest gift is its wisdom about finding one’s own path. (Sept.)