History of religion brought to life!, April 3, 2005
Reviewer: Heidi J. North "toadmanor"
I know a lot of Orson Scott Card fans will be out of their comfort zone reading this book. Well, so be it. I think it is a magnificent introduction to the history of the Mormon church. Other reviewers have criticized it for not having enough "lovable" characters.
How "lovable" are real people? That's who you feel you have gotten to know in this book. Fictional characters mingle with historical characters, and Card has been honest enough to make them ALL as complicated as people really are. Joseph Smith is not portrayed as a sinless martyr, he is portrayed as a human being, with human failings. This doesn't take away from his great accomplishments -- his accomplishments are so great precisely BECAUSE he was fallible.
And the character of Dinah is a triumph. Perhaps her strength of character isn't "lovable" to some. But for those of us who look for well-rounded, realistic female characters in books, Dinah is GREAT! She is independent, strong willed, and follows the strength of her convictions even when it means personal sacrifice. She is symbolic of the many real women who joined the Mormon church despite severe persecution.
"Saints" is a long book and a complicated book. It is not a "light read." But it is a WORTHWHILE read -- and will also give you some insight into Orson Scott Card not only as a writer but as a member of this uniquely American church, the Church of Latter-Day Saints. (Hence the title.)
"Saints" (first published way back in 1984) begins in Manchester, England, in 1829, in the midst of the horrors of the industrial revolution. A family falls on hard times and you quickly get caught up in their day-to-day struggles for survival. But no sooner do you think you are reading a latter-day version of Dickens, then the Latter Day Saints appear. Young Dinah Kirkham and her mother and brother convert to Mormonism and emigrate to America -- extraordinary events that the author makes seem inevitable, from his thorough build-up of the characters and their circumstances. Dinah becomes the focus of the book, which follows her from age 10 to age 100, marrying Joseph Smith, and later Brigham Young. She becomes so real, so believable, so necessary to the history of the Mormon Church, that when you are done reading the novel, you'll be impelled to do one Google search after another, looking for evidence that such a woman really lived. The author also succeeds remarkably in making the strangest beliefs and practices of the Mormon Church -- including polygamy -- seem natural and inevitable: psychologically "true". - Richard Seltzer (from Amazon reviews)
My husband and I both loved this book. Very powerful, and a fascinating look at the beginnings of the Mormon church. Highly recommended.
I've been trying to think about what to say about this book. The first and essayist thing to say is if you don't want to read 713 pages of book don't try this one. Also it's a well written book. Next and the most difficult thing to get past is that the church I was raised in has a common history with the history of the Mormons and since this was written from their perspective it was difficult for me to keep reading. Especially when Joesph Smiths wife Emma was written as an emotional mess who's husband has to lie to her to supposedly follow the word of GOD. Did Card write her this way to keep the story like true to the Mormon perspective? Emma always said that her husband did not condone multiple marriage. I wonder is Card Mormon or did he just write the story this way? Well, like I said it was a well written book but when I got to the end all I could say was humph. It was interesting from a historical perspective, especially while the story was still in England, but I won't be reading it again and I didn't really enjoy most of it. Maybe if your Mormon you might enjoy it, I don't know.
This is a lengthy book at 604 pages, but I finished it in about 4 evenings. It progresses quickly and held my interest easily.
At the beginning, we learn of the Kirkham family in Manchester, England, deserted by the father in 1829 and left to fend for themselves. I was fascinated by the way the author described life in this time period and a lot of the historical accuracy weaved throughout this fictional tale. Dinah Kirkham, the youngest child of the family, is the main character in the book yet the stories are really all about her family, and the various paths they all take, the struggles they must each face, and their inner strength.
The first few sections of the book take us along as the Kirkhams struggle to survive, the children working in factories at ages so young it was hard to imagine, the mother accepting her now lowered station in life and looking for work in the homes of others, all while living in a miserable shack of a home. The latter half of the book occurs after the Kirkhams have been introduced to a Mormon missionary who has a message that resonates with most of the family. From there, the story takes a turn both narratively and geographically.
While Dinah is a fictional character, the author has her interacting with real people and real events who have also been fictionalized in these stories, but it gives the book more of a non-fiction feel. Card also uses "First Words" in between chapters where he appears to be giving background on his "great aunt Dinah" and her diary, so it was easy to forget that this was a fictional character.
From Publishers Weekly
First published in 1984 and marketed as a romance under the title A Woman of Destiny, Card's magnum opus deserves a wider readership than it has hitherto enjoyed. Best known for his fantasy fiction (Ender's Game, etc.), Card does an excellent job of depicting the Dickensian horrors of England undergoing industrialization in the early 19th century as well as the early trials of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints as experienced by his heroine, Dinah Kirkham. After converting to the new "Mormon" faith, Dinah emigrates from Britain to America, where she becomes one of the plural wives of the church's founder and prophet, Joseph Smith. The controversial Smith comes across as convincingly human as do the rest of Card's not always admirable characters. Not just for the LDS faithful (the author is himself a Mormon), this ambitious novel will appeal to anyone interested in a sensitive examination of the roots of religious feeling.
"Saints" is a novelization of the life of one of the wives of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). The book follows Dinah from her childhood of poverty and misery in England through her involvement in the early Mormon movement in the United States. Card manages to make it seem plausible that a smart, tough, self-reliant woman like Dinah could accept Mormon "plural marriage." The one part of her life that I didn't fully understand was Dinah's conversion to Mormonism in the first place, which is, of course, crucial to the story.
I was fascinated by Card's characterization of Joseph Smith. You can't quite decide whether he's a raving egomaniac on a power trip or whether he truly believes he's heard the voice of God and is determined to be faithful no matter how difficult it may be or how crazy God's commands may seem. Or maybe it's some of each. It seems to me that a lot of strong religious leaders are like this, and maybe there's no sure way to tell what's really motivating them. Card also leaves open the interpretation of Dinah's treatment of her children: Is it a painful but necessary consequence of acting faithfully, or an inexcusable abdication of responsibility, or some of each?
"Saints" is an engaging story and a powerful study of the faithful life. Also recommended: "Stone Tables," Card's novelization of the life of Moses.
Once I got into this book I could not put it down. Mr. Card has a way of capturing any time period he writes about so well, you can see it in your mind. I loved the heroine, and the story of the beginnings of the Mormon Church I found very interesting.
My first book by Orson Scott Card and I loved it. The detail on the different story lines is supberb. I never really knew how the Mormon religion got started before I read this book. It even has a guest appearance or two by Abraham Lincoln. =) 2 Thumbs Up and I will look for more Orson Scott Card novels!
I enjoyed this book very much.
Felt like Mormon propaganda in spots. I wouldn't recommend