Gabriel's Daughters (book review & giveaway)
It's been a LONG LONG LONG time since I put my personal book review above the "about the book" section. I usually figure it's better for readers to get the little blurb giving the brief scenario for the book before hearing how I feel about it. In this case... I wanted to note SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS before you got to the "About the book" section below. Pretty much the WHOLE BOOK is detailed in the blurb I was provided with (including the ending). (Although I would note that some of the details are actually wrong... but I won't tell you which ones... because that would just be more spoilers. sigh)
So... I'll give you my own "about the book" before my review. :)
Zina Martin is a 16 year old junior in high school. She has been raised in a polygamous community by her father and mother... and her father's 2nd and 3rd wives. While her family is wonderful and supportive and honestly sounds pretty darn perfect... it doesn't mean that Zina desires to be the 5th wife of her father's best friend (even if he also has a wonderful and supportive well run family). After one of her male teachers shows her what it could be like to actually have a relationship based on love... she knows she can't marry into polygamy and runs away rather than confront her father and face the shame she knows she will have to see.
When Zina runs it sets her on a life changing adventure where she meets people that are truly not at all what she would have expected them to be. An African-American couple take her in and give her a family, supporting her through her suffering. A restaurant owner and chef take her under their wings and give her a job and teach her skills for a career. A young gay man becomes her best friend and confident, and they help each other defeat their past demons. A reconnection with her older sister (who is also away from the community) reminds her of family and the love of her childhood. A friend of her sister and brother-in-law's makes Zina realize that love could be in her future if she can just figure out how to open her heart.
So.... My review:
Gabriel's Daughters is really a fabulous story about how all of the people you meet touch your life in some way. They make you who you are... and help guide your way. Some will be positive encounters... some will be negative. But every incident leaves you with a choice of how to move on.
I really fell in love with Zina. It was amazing to me to think of her setting out on her own at 16. Running away made her so real for me... finding it easier to run than face disappointing her family. But then, she proved she was such a strong young woman... and amazed me with her openness to the world... even having been so sheltered from anything that was unacceptable in her community. She certainly was sent some amazing guardian angels to keep her safe along the way. Everyone should be so fortunate to have people in their life like Mo and Callie. They were just such warm people... and made it so easy for Zina to learn that the color of your skin doesn't make a difference in love. And when Simon (her gay roommate) came into her life it made me a little jealous of Zina for having found such an amazing friend. And, without even trying Zina learned that sexual preference isn't a factor in friendship.
The author just does such an amazing job with developing her characters and all of their relationships. She also made the story real to me by making sure that while Zina was fortunate in finding an amazing support system, and was SO lucky all along the way... she also had some terrifying things happen to her. It would have been so unbelievable if she ran away and found nothing but sunshine and roses. She also did a remarkable job on keeping a neutrality on the topic of polygamy.... pointing out that there were some people who created amazing families through polygamy... and others that were created with selfish abusive results. There were people that thrived in the community... and people that were squashed into it. I think the book just did an amazing job of telling that all people should be true to themselves. All people should follow their hearts and beliefs. And, that all people should not judge others for their choices. Really really well written novel.
About the book (SPOILERS INCLUDED):
Zina Martin leaves the polygamous hamlet of Gabriel’s Landing,Utah, a with thirteen dollars and eighty-four cents in her pocket, and a few clothes stashed in a duffel bag. She is sixteen, promised as a plural wife to a man twice her age who already has four wives and children, some of whom are older than she. Zina is also pregnant with her high school teacher’s child. She is picked up by Mo and Callie, an African-American couple who drive a semi, headed for Chicago. The next day she miscarries and Buck and Callie take her to a clinic for treatment.
In Chicago, Zina soon gets a job as a waitress and is eventually promoted to assistant chef. A jealous co-worker and the boss’s wife attack her one morning and cut her long hair, the one remnant of her previous life. She moves to Minneapolis for a new job and meets Simon Benning, a gay man who needs a roommate.
One day she types her family name into an internet search and finds her mother’s obituary, nearly eight years old. Simon urges her to reconnect with her family. She learns that her physician sister Louisa is married and living in rural Hawthorn Valley, Kentucky. Zina goes to Kentucky and hides in their barn, afraid to face them, but she can’t leave, either, after she sees them. Dr. Andy McBride, Louisa’s husband, confronts Zina in his barn and treats her for pneumonia. Her reunion with Louisa is joyful.
Zina meets Andy’s friend, orthopedic surgeon James Christensen, and a slow, sweet courtship begins, with eccentric healer Miss Carolina playing matchmaker. A few months later Miss Carolina dies in her sleep, and, surprisingly, leaves her property to Zina, who is now a wealthy woman.
Amy, the youngest of the Martins at home in Gabriel’s Landing, marries her childhood sweetheart. Blissfully happy for the first few months, she is astounded when her husband takes a new wife as directed by the Council of Brothers, without her knowledge or approval. She flees to Kentucky, to be with Louisa. It is there she meets her sister Zina for the first time. Zina has Miss Carolina’s cabin refurbished for Amy, who gives birth to her first child with Zina and Jim in attendance. Amy returns home to give her plural marriage a chance.
Zina finally reconciles with her father, Joshua, who has long blamed himself for her disappearance.
She becomes involved with organizations that assist women and children who have left polygamy. She builds Miss Carolina’s Bakery in Salt Lake City, a business that will support four families. Over time her feelings for James grow stronger. On ribbon-cutting day, Zina is thrilled to open her new business, but her happiness isn’t complete until she sees James in the crowd. When she waves to him we see a diamond ring on her left hand. Someone asks James where his home is. “Wherever she is,” he says, smiling at Zina. “That’s home for me.”
Meet the Author
Janet Kay Jensen is the co-author of a literature-based cookbook, The Book Lover’s Cookbook: recipes inspired by great works of literature and the passages that feature them (Wenger & Jensen), and an award-winning novel, Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys.
She holds degrees in Speech-Language Pathology from Utah State University and Northwestern University and worked in the education field for more than twenty years. She has taught writing courses at the local jail and is also a volunteer literacy tutor who feels genuine panic when caught without something to read.
Janet and her husband Miles, an attorney, live a quiet life in a college town nestled in the foothills of northern Utah's Rocky Mountains. They are the parents of three grown sons: a soccer enthusiast/physician in Salt Lake City Utah; an exercise physiologist/graduate student in Jyvaskyla,Finland; and a parachute jumper/embedded systems engineer in Berkeley, California. They have happily become grandparents of three remarkable grandchildren.
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