Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Forsaking all Others by Allison Pittman

After turning the final page of this book, I waited a day before writing my review. By no means a light read, Camilla's story continued to brew and steep in my mind hours later. While scrubbing dishes at the sink, my thoughts danced visually with the imagery Allison Pittman created and I wondered what her characters were doing since our initial farewell earlier in the day. (And I say "initial" because I'm sure I'll be revisiting at some point to get reacquainted with the people I've come to care about.) That's the mark of good storytelling, when you can leave the reader invested in your world and wanting more.

Forsaking all others has a beautiful literary quality to it, yet the narration remains simple as told from Camilla Fox's point of view. The beginning starts off slowly then gradually builds steam as we follow her journey from ex-mormon to child of God. She recounts the events that have led her out into a terrible snowstorm, desperately fleeing all she once held dear, in the hopes of finding the one thing no man can take from her. Camilla's reawakening to God, started in the first book For Time and Eternity, reaches soaring intensity here as she grows stronger both physically and spiritually. We witness the saving grace He sustains her with during her darkest times of despair and desperate longing for the two daughters she left behind in Salt Lake City. She also fights the feelings husband Nathan Fox still arouses in her, despite her determination to leave behind mormonism and all it represents, including polygamy. Camilla can't and won't live in plural marriage even though devout mormons all around have embraced the lifestyle as coming from Heavenly Father himself-via prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. But will she continue finding the strength to follow her convictions with threats of blood atonement looming? Can she stand firm on the promises of the very God she discarded years ago to follow a religious lie? And will she be able to restore relationships from her past that matter most?

Being intrigued by the mormon religion for many years, I was rather excited when I saw advertisements for this series about sister wives, from a christian point of view. I hadn't read any of Allison Pittman's other work so was really hoping the books would be well crafted and enlightening. Given the delicacy of subject matter, it could easily come off as one note, preachy, or cartoonish so this worried me a bit. My fears were unfounded, however, as the author deftly weaves her tale with honesty yet respect. Recounting Camilla's experiences, she is careful not to tell us how we should react to various situations but rather backs off to let readers form their own opinion. I found it refreshing she didn't try to make us "like" Camilla or even approve of all her decisions, making her story even more realistic. I felt I could empathize with her characters even if I didn't always agree with the choices they made. Pittman also avoided being overly dramatic or soap opera-ish, which could have been easy to do given the theme of multiple wives. Just the definition of the word, polygamy, itself is rife with overt tension and a certain salaciousness. We are instantly intrigued how several women can share one man and still live in a state of harmony amid rivalries, co-parenting, etc. Pittman shares the pittfalls, no pun intended, of such a practice yet by the end Camilla somewhat wistfully realizes the bond she might have shared with one of her sister wives had circumstances been different. She sees what Mormon leaders may have imagined could come from the forging of several intimate relationships in an eternal bond but also that it was not the plan God had in mind when he created us.

That man will always try to interpret or twist God's words to satisfy them is no surprise given our fallen nature, but we have to be especially wary of any religion or person claiming to be the ultimate authority on all things. And as Camilla realizes, we mustn't be blinded by feelings but discern what is good and acceptable based on the truth God's word reveals.

Many thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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