By Kent Larsen
After the Massacre
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Salt Lake Tribune's Martin Naparsteck
recently reviewed "The Ferry Woman" a recent novel by Gerald Grimmett
that, in spite of a slightly inaccurate subtitle, explores the
aftermath of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and its affect on a
fictional wife of John D. Lee. Lee is widely considered the scapegoat
for the September 1857 massacre of a wagon train of more than 120
men, women and children on their way to California.
Naparsteck calls the book "a great novel" because of the richness of
its language, because of the grand, biblical sweep of its tale,
because of its insight into the psychology of its main character, and
because of the novelist's courage in facing what may be the single
most controversial episode in Mormon history. Grimmett's view of the
incident and of Brigham Young, however, is not what faithful Mormons
The novel is told from the point of view of Emeline Buxton Lee, a
fictional 16th wife of John D. Lee, forty years after the massacre.
She has remarried and moved to Washington DC, where she has a
distance and objectivity that she might not have in Utah. Emmeline
tells the story of how she married Lee years after the massacre and
travels with him to Lonely Dell (later Lee's Ferry) to run the ferry
there with him. There her husband is shunned by fellow Mormons,
abandoned by some of his wives, and confused about his relationship
to the Church and to Brigham Young.
According to Naparsteck, who clearly believes that Brigham Young
ordered the massacre, Grimmett stays close to the version of the
story told by Juanita Brooks in her book, "The Mountain Meadows
Massacre" and in her biography of John D. Lee. But, like in Brooks'
books, there is no implication in Grimmett's book that Brigham Young
ordered the massacre. However, his Brigham Young is not a righteous
man. Instead, Emeline befriends an abused polygamous wife and
together they plan to murder the prophet.
Naparsteck, however, groups "The Ferry Woman" with Robert Hodgson Van
Wagoner's "Dancing Naked" and iwht Levi Peterson's 1995 novel "Aspen
Marooney" as "part of a great awakening in Mormon literature" one
that is willing to look into the darker parts of Mormon culture.
These books, he says, provide us with "an Aristotelian catharsis;
like all great literature, [they force] us to confront truths that
make us uncomfortable. And it cures us in the process."
'Ferry Woman' Offers an Artist's Take on Mountain Meadows
Salt Lake Tribune 25Mar01 A2
By Martin Naparsteck: Special to the Tribune