Faith and Betrayal
A Pioneer Woman's Passage in the American West
Based on the diaries of the author's great-great grandmother, describes how Jean Rio, a recent widow and mother of seven, lured by the promises of Mormon missionaries, embarked on a long and difficult journey to Utah, where she found disillusionment, zealotry, violence, the loss of her wealth, and the repellent practice of polygamy. The richly told story of a nineteenth century woman, the author's great-great grandmother, whose religious faith was betrayed and regained on a journey across the American West. In the 1850s, Jean Rio was a recently widowed English mother of seven. Rich, well educated, musically gifted, deeply spiritual, and increasingly dismayed by the social injustices she saw around her, she was moved by the promises of Mormon missionaries and set out from England for Utah. On her fifty-six day Atlantic crossing, she began keeping a diary, and this extraordinary chronicle is the basis of Sally Denton's book. We follow Jean Rio from New Orleans, where she disembarks, up the Mississippi by riverboat, and, finally, westward by wagon train. We see her family transformed by necessity, mastering frontier skills, surviving storms, finding their own food, overcoming illness and injury during the five months it takes them to reach Zion. We see her initial enthusiasm turn to disillusionment: She is forced to surrender her money to the church. She realizes she has been lied to about polygamy; Mormons do practice it, which she detests. Acts of Mormon violence against nonbelievers repels her. Her musical skills are buried beneath the daily rigors of farming. Two of her sons flee to California. We witness her seventeen-year struggle to make peace with her situation before she, too, escapes to California, to freedom, a career as a midwife, and a new religion that fulfills her. Dramatic and powerful, Faith and Betrayal is the moving account of one woman's gamble in an emerging America, and a valuable addition to the history of both the Mormon experience and the long saga of immigrant pioneer women.
New York : Knopf, 2005
xviii, 216 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm