True Sisters

Author: Sandra Dallas

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Release Date: April 2012

Blue Ribbon Rating: 5


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I've read many historical novels over the years, but I have never experienced one so well suited to the American pioneer woman's struggles.  This book concentrates heavily on two sisters and several women who travel with them, as well as their family and friends.  Epic, heart wrenching, hopeful and often overwhelming, I was moved over and over by these strong women who represent in fiction what is based on a real-life journey.

Most of us can't imagine traveling across mountains and rivers in a covered wagon pulled by oxen, let alone walking with just a handcart to carry all your belongings.  TRUE SISTERS illustrates the brave Mormon (Latter-day Saints) converts, who, promised a better life in a new land, traveled by ship from Europe to America, then train, and finally had just handcarts to push or pull their belongings thirteen hundred miles to Salt Lake City, Utah in the 1850's.  Most of the converts couldn't afford a wagon and oxen, so, at less than twenty dollars and loaned to them by their church, the handcarts were a more economical way to get to their destination.

Since supply stations were planned along their journey, Ella and Nannie, plus Ella's husband, Andrew, weren't concerned that the handcarts were much smaller than a wagon.  The three of them would share the pushing and pulling.  Not wanting to be parted from her pregnant sister, Nannie comes to America with Ella and Andrew, hoping to forget her past hopes in a brand new future.  Much to Nannie's embarrassment, her ex-fiancĂ© and his new wife show up on the same journey.  Nannie had thought she'd be Levi's only wife, and now she's wondering if he may want her as his second wife.  Polygamy is accepted in their faith now, so it's a possibility that every woman on this journey must consider.  Luckily for Ella, her husband Andrew promised that she would always be his only wife.

Anne Sully's husband, John, sells their gentlemen clothing store in London without her knowledge so they can make the pilgrimage to Salt Lake City.  He assumes she'll come with him willingly to start a new life because he believes so strongly in the opportunity.  Anne is furious and doesn't want to go.  John became a Mormon without her knowledge, and now he threatens to take their children with him to America without her.  What choice does she have?  Can Anne travel as the only Gentile amongst the Saints without befriending these people who converted her husband against her will?  Can she go back to England if she's unhappy?

Louisa is married to Thales Tanner, leader of one hundred of the Saints traveling together.  Louisa's parents, plus her sister and two sons, join them in their faith and on this trek.  Louisa is thrilled to be the wife of such an important man of God.  But, it also means that her hardship will be more difficult in the coming days, because she will be left to tend to her family by herself, while her husband helps others in their group.  She is strong and respects her husband, so she accepts her part without complaint.

Jessie Cooper and her two brothers were baptized into the Mormon faith by Thales Tanner.  Thales had originally been interested in Jessie as a wife but she had no plans to marry yet, being too interested in working a farm alongside her brothers.  Luckily, her best friend, Louisa, welcomed Thales' affection.  Jessie and her brothers dream of a new farm in the rich untouched earth of Utah.

This is just a glimpse of the characters you will become attached to in TRUE SISTERS.  Their joys and hardships jump off the page into your heart while you travel with them.  All these women's paths cross one another, their hopes and dreams shared, as well as their many doubts, fears and sorrows.

Since Romance Junkies is a "romance" review site, I need to warn that this novel won't satisfy all the expectations of traditional romance readers.  It can be described as a historical woman's fiction with some romance elements.  Sandra Dallas tells her characters' stories with realism, sometimes in all its gory details.  Although there is often great sadness in this novel, it is not a story without hope, and I highly recommend it to those who love the grit of American pioneer women.  It is not always a happy story.  Instead, it's an amazing passage that's a tribute to the Mormons' deeply rooted faith.

Inspirational beyond words, sometimes horrifyingly heartbreaking, TRUE SISTERS is a powerful novel sure to affect your emotions.  It demonstrates the human spirit when faced with overwhelming odds against them.  It's a harsh reality but even when they doubt, these friends' love for one another holds strong and pushes them forward.

For a book that will stay with you long after the last page is turned, TRUE SISTERS should grace every historical lover's shelf.  Sandra Dallas has a gift for spinning a tale of epic proportions and making the reader feel as if they're inside the story.  Breathtaking, tragic, rousing and love-inspired, TRUE SISTERS is an emotional saga of hope betrayed and renewed.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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