I’m going to combine the first two novels in Dean Hughes’ newest series:
MUDDY: Where Faith and Polygamy Collide
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be a polygamist family in the early days of the Utah pioneers, look no further. Muddy, and the books following it in the series, will give you a fly-on-the-wall view.
Morgan Davis, a faithful young man in his 20’s from Farmington, Utah, has been asked to marry and settle in Southern Utah. Over time, despite his great hesitancy to participate in polygamy, he is asked to marry again.
But there is more to the story–much, much more. There is the setting up in a new place, the adjustment to being a husband and father, and the challenges that accompany hard living while farming and having to provide everything for your family in a place with no resources or commerce.
When Morgan is asked to marry his second wife, Ruth–a quiet young widow–he and his first wife, Angeline, must navigate this new dynamic in their family. What are the logistics when there are two wives? We are privy to all of this, and it’s fascinating.
RIVER: Where Faith and Consecration Converge
Just when Morgan thinks his life is on track, he is thrown more curve balls. River begins with a grasshopper plague swarming into the community. Dean Hughes describes it in such detail, you feel yourself swatting the insects away.
But the biggest new challenge, aside from the grasshoppers, is that Morgan Davis is asked to move with his family to a new settlement and begin living the United Order’s Law of Consecration. If we thought the logistics of plural marriage were challenging, living this law is even more difficult. Many hands might make light work, but they also bring different viewpoints, personalities, and interpretations of rules.
Meanwhile, Washington DC is starting to pursue polygamist families. Morgan, his wives, and children must prepare and decide what to do should he be hauled away by the deputies.
River is a very “meaty” book, with a lot more intensity and personality clashes than its predecessor, Muddy. A terrific second book in the series.
Dean Hughes is a very gifted writer. He has a way of showing us the thoughts and feelings of different characters that is both realistic and detailed. He explores an impressive array of human emotion. During the multiple talks to set up the Law of Consecration in the community, Hughes touches on nearly every kind of concern that people would have when asked to live such a lifestyle. It takes an enormous amount of faith and selflessness, things that are difficult for even the best of people.
But I think the thing that impresses me most about Hughes’ writing style is the way he writes women. He seems to know how women tick, their worries and fears, their jealousies and concerns. I am constantly amazed at how well the female characters’ innermost thoughts are described.
This is historical fiction at its best, with realistic fictional characters living and interacting with actual figures from history. I find myself often in moments of self-reflection wondering how I would react to the hardships these people faced and the things that were asked of them by their church leaders.