Book Review: Faith and Betrayal, A Pioneer Woman's Passage in the American West by Sally Denton
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Published by Knopf April 2005/240 Pages
Non-fiction/Pioneer Women/The Old West/Mormon
Jean Rio Griffith's was born in 1810 in Scotland. An only child to a mother of French aristocratic birth (surviving the French revolution) and to a father that was of Scottish aristocracy. Jean Rio grew up having the best of education and the best in piano and voice instruction. She later gave piano performances in concert halls in Europe. She married a Henry Baker of London and they lived near St. Paul's Cathedral. Together they had 9 children. Jean Rio lived a life of luxury and stability. Yet, she was disenchanted with the Anglican Church and with aristocratic society. It was a mix of not feeling fulfilled in her church and amongst the society she had always lived in, and feeling as if there was something more. Mormon missionaries came to England, Scotland and Wales in the 1840's proselytizing, and gaining followers predominantly with the poor and uneducated, but also with those from the upper society who like Jean Rio were disillusioned with their life. After her husband died she made a huge decision to move with her children and other family members to Zion in Utah, where the Mormon church had established a community. Jean Rio had a large income and had made a large profit by selling much of her possessions in London before leaving. The travel to Zion is journaled by her, then there is a long lull of no journal activity. The author who is a descendant of Jean Rio believes there was a continued journal but that journal was never found.
The author stated in the book that her "goal was to give voice to this woman. The Mormon church has used her as a recruitment tool even though she had left this religion." The author wanted what she felt was the true story to be written and published.
There is historical information about the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young. Information about what it would have been like to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, and across the United States to Zion in Utah. Jean Rio actually landed in New Orleans and then traveled by riverboat up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri. Then across the plains and mountains to Zion in Utah. Jean Rio was 40 years old when she made this trip.
This book is not written in a journal format, nor is it from Jean Rio's voice perse. The book is written not academically either. The book is written more biographically the author stating her goal in wanting the truth to be told about her ancestor.
I found the book to be interesting.
There is information given about the Mormon church that I did not know about. Surely that part of history with the Mormon church is a dark period for them.
Depending on which side of the fence the reader sits on with Mormonism would be how they felt about the authors story.
The author stated that the Mormon church have told a side of the story of Jean Rio that would give a favorable light to them.
Whereas the author wrote Jean Rio's story that gives the Mormon church a description in that they are a cult that has been led to flourish in America for generations.
I never felt I really got to know through this story the woman Jean Rio, she was analyzed by the author from a distance. The author wrote more on the infamous Brigham Young and the history of the Mormon church than on Jean Rio. I was left feeling as if Jean Rio is still an uncaptured historical character in a black and white photograph. Another words she did not live and breath in the pages of this book.
I am glad I did read this book, it opened up my eyes to a religion I knew little about, albeit through the eyes of the author Sally Denton.