By: Dianne Ebertt Beeaff
Publisher: Hawkmoon Publications
Publication Date: January 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: October 29, 2022
Award-winning author Dianne Ebert Beeaff has constructed a powerful piece of imaginative history focusing on the animosity between Mormon families settling in the southwest in the late 19th-early 20th centuries, unwelcome and often embroiled in serious conflict with local groups. Here the light of revelation is both universal and personal, centering on the perspectives of two powerful females.
Malvina, known as Mellie, is a young woman required to help with other family members, most especially her grandfather Noah, or Father Beecham, who is regarded as their leader by the Mormon adherents in Graham County, Arizona. Mellie has called on the services of someone Noah would at first refer to as “Texas riffraff” – Duett, a local girl who, Mellie believes, has a calm and efficient manner that will suit the household well. Her instinct proves correct as Duett becomes a welcome help to the household, but the wish to soothe family stresses will not be successful even so.
The Beechams seem always to be at odds with the Texan Brennicks, even though their cooperation could greatly improve conditions in the county in times of strife, which, in Beeaff’’s action-filled saga, will include not only nature’s challenges at home but a world war raging in Europe. That international uproar will cause the family’s young men to be called, or to enlist, one of them Nephi, inwardly guided by unique Mormon spirits, the Nephites. Another soldier, Ephraim, home on leave, will assault Mellie, and be fortuitously fought off by Lyman, a photographer and strong ally to the clan. The attack will spark repercussions that spread to include family secrets that Mellie, with the spirited assistance and support of the vivacious Duett, will be shocked to uncover and forced to live with, even as she acknowledges the sins of those closest to her.
Told with astute attention to the smallest details of Texas accent and Mormon lore, Beeaff’s novel is based around one historical incident – a manhunt that took place in the book’s setting, in 1918. She has deftly drawn her characters into connection with that event, and in doing so creates a climax welded with condemnation, confession, and finally, frank and much needed confrontation. The story is complicated, ever on the move, offering tiny clues for the reader’s engagement tucked into a large landscape of turf wars, national sentiments, women’s push for suffrage, and the strictures of an extremely tight-knit extended family burdened, some would say, by unconventional religious beliefs. Beeaff is, like one of her protagonists, a graphic artist as well as a poet and noted author of both fiction and nonfiction.
Quill says: Writer Beeaff’s latest offering will doubtless attract a large readership to this twisted, tormented tale of love and loss, women’s aspirations, and the triumph over cold doctrine and falsehoods of good will, grit, and human hope.
For more information on Power's Garden, please visit the author's website at: www.debeeaff.wordpress.com
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