Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AML Review

Latest review came in from the AML (Association of Mormon Letters)

Title: Out of Jerusalem, Volume 4: Land of Inheritance
Author: H. B. (Heather) Moore
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: 2007
Number of Pages: 324
Binding: Hardback
ISBN: 1598113976
Price: $19.95

Reviewed by Andrew Hall

In the first three volumes of her Book of Mormon historical fiction series, Heather B. Moore showed that she could create a view of an ancient world that combines the best scholarship with a lively imagination. She does a fine job of walking the tricky line of faithfulness to the scripture and creative storytelling. She opened up the hearts of her characters in ways both remarkably touching and authentic. In this forth and final volume she does all of that, as well as writing one of the most exciting adventure tales that I have read in a while.

Moore sets the novel soon after the Lehi party’s arrival in the New World, followed by the death of Lehi, the split between Nephi’s and Laman’s groups, and the conflict that follows that split. As in earlier volumes, she uses several male and female POV characters. Like earlier volumes, her descriptions of the native peoples the Lehi party would have encountered add great color to the work. Moore is the daughter of Book of Mormon scholar S. Kent Brown, and her careful chapter endnotes make clear that her descriptions are based on genuine scholarship.

A difficult question Moore faces is how to depict the change wrought on the Lamanites after their separation from the Nephites. Was their skin changed immediately, or was it due to a gradual intermixing with native groups? Moore decides to go with the more dramatic option of a sudden change. To soften the racist implication in linking a curse with dark skin, she introduces in her notes, and she has her characters repeat, the construct of BYU Book of Mormon scholar Catherine Thomas, who has claimed that “the Lamanites cursed themselves when they chose to reject the Spirit of the Lord”. As a result, the Lord set a mark of dark skin upon them. “The sore cursing was not the dark skin, but the loss of the Holy Ghost, of which the skin coloring was but a mark” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 7, Deseret Book, 1987). This makes sense to me theologically, and defused a potentially racist premise.

The decision sets up an effective sub-plot about Elisheba, a daughter of Lehi and wife to a son of Ishmael, who remains behind with her husband after the Nephites escape, the only believer in the Lamanite group. As the only one not to be marked with the curse because of her faithfulness, the Lamanites accuse her of bewitching them, and plot to kill her. She eventually becomes part of a multi-character inter-family chase through the jungle, an adventure set piece that Moore pulls off beautifully. As the saying goes, I was glued to my seat.

Moore does not shoot off any literary fireworks, but she more than fulfilled my expectations for a religious historical fiction novel. I will keep my eye open for her next release.



Josi said...

Well deserved! Cngrats.

Heather B. Moore said...

Thanks, Josi. It gave me chills. It was like reading a review about another person's book. Not my own.