Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: All That Was Promised

In the spring of 1847, Richard Kenyon, a humble Methodist minister in Cardiff, Wales, is called to the bedside of a member of his congregation and feels helpless when he can’t answer her grieving husband’s questions about death. Then Richard hears a Mormon missionary preach, finds the elusive answers, and his world is suddenly topsy-turvy, but he also gains the inner peace that will sustain him through staggering tests of his new faith.

All That Was Promised, Vickie Hall’s 231-page novel from Bonneville Books, takes the reader through a captivating story that includes many manifestations of persecution, both subtle and overt, suffered by early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wales. Richard’s wife Leah comes to her convictions later, but Richard’s brother Robert, sole proprietor of the Kenyon & Sons tea company after Richard becomes a minister, is outraged that his brother has converted to Mormonism and severs ties immediately. Though keenly hurt and disappointed, Richard never gives up on Robert.

Richard’s new friends enrich his faith—Ben Lachlan, the American missionary who baptized him; David Simmons, the LDS branch president; Henry and Charlotte, an elderly convert couple; Jonah Reese, a young convert boy; Claire and Samuel, Leah’s sister and brother-in-law who are also members; and Church leaders in Wales. Richard flourishes and finds happiness in his new religion despite becoming a target. LDS readers who understand the concept will appreciate instances where characters are “led by the Spirit” and miracles ensue. Through all the relentless persecution, the Mormon congregation continues to grow.

In contrast, Robert lives a grim, desperate, bitter life, the result of his own empty soul and a loveless marriage to the disparaging, malicious Abigail, a woman with no redeeming qualities. She controls, abuses and manipulates their fourteen-year-old daughter Amelia, imprisoning the girl in her own room for the slightest misstep. Robert hires John Morgan, sort of a one-man Welsh mafioso, to disrupt meetings, intimidate, and create personal havoc for as many Mormons as possible. However, they need someone on the “inside,” and that’s Meredith, a bar maid who pretends to believe even to the extent of being baptized, becoming accepted by the Mormons and gaining their trust so she can report to her nefarious boss where the LDS live and work. Their one miscalculation is that they didn’t expect Meredith to develop scruples. When he learns of Richard’s baptism, Robert misses a chance to change course, persisting instead in his “get the Mormons” campaign.

Hall’s prose is highly readable. Scenes of violence and cruelty—necessary in a story like this—are written without lurid details, describing what was suffered but sparing the reader gratuitous gore. Appealing characters, a tightly woven plot and non-stop acts of lawlessness, betrayal and treachery keep the story flowing. All the characters have ample opportunities to repent and forgive; as in real life, some people do, some don’t. And all the villains come to foreseeable ends, although a shrewd barrister could probably have won Robert’s case with a plea of justifiable homicide.

This impressive story would have been much better served with more meticulous editing. It also needed a Welsh-English glossary with an explanation of customs so the story didn’t have to be interrupted with historical and cultural facts to bring readers up to speed. Otherwise, as the author’s first published novel, it is a fine piece of work and one I recommend.

(I was asked to review this book and received a copy from the author.)


jww said...

Sounds REALLY good!! Is it based on a true story, or completely fictional?

Pam Williams said...

As far as I know, it's all fiction. Incidents from church and personal history can be adapted quite well into fiction.