Friday, September 19, 2008

LDS Fiction to Fall For

Editor's Note: The Top of the Morning staff is pleased to post LDS Fiction Critic Jennie Hansen's review of Day of Remembrance that appeared Friday, September 19th at Meridian Magazine, an LDS online magazine. Her review is posted below for your convenience.

LDS Fiction to Fall For
By Jennie Hansen

Those of us who were enthralled by David G. Woolley's first three books of the Promised Land series were excited to learn that a fourth volume, Day of Remembrance, was to be released this month. Five years has been a long time to wait; ironically Day of Remembrance is about time, the time of the Lord.

There are three separate stories contained in this volume, all linked together by the Day of Remembrance, a significant date on the Jewish calendar also know as Rosh Hashannah, ha-Zikkaron, ha-Teurah, Feast of Trumpets, or the Jewish New Year. This is a day set aside to remind men of their covenants with God and to remind God of his promises or covenants with his children.

The first story continues the story of Lehi, his family, and a few close friends in the sixth century before Christ, hiding in the wilderness, waiting for the day when the Lord tells them to continue on their journey. Instead of continuing the journey, the Lord instructs Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem for the brass plates. This is not a simple matter for multiple reasons; Labon claims the ancient records as proof of his birthright to rule and guards them with fierce determination, political intrigue is rampant in the city, Lehi and all of his family are wanted by the military and elders of the city, and the brass plates will not be complete until Jeremiah's pages are added to the codex. A collision of motives and intrigue bears down on the Day of Remembrance.

The second story is that of a father and daughter, Hassidic Jewish refugees from Russia who have come to Jerusalem in the nineteenth century to escape the persecution of Jews in that land. And it's the story of a Sephardic father and son who live above the ancient ruins of Laban's treasury. It's also the story of a young man and woman's desire for marriage, the kind of marriage meant to last for eternity as promised in the old covenants. They met on the Day of Remembrance and vow to marry on the next Day of Remembrance.

The third story is that of a young farm boy in upstate New York who asks God which church he should join. His quest unleashes a fury of hate and persecution leading up to one more Day of Remembrance.

David Woolley is a storyteller who lends not only his aptitude for storytelling to Day of Remembrance, but he is also an historian with a master's degree from the University of Iowa and a doctorate from Brigham Young University . Together these two aspects of his background produce meticulously researched physical and spiritual details to enrich his writing. The story is compelling, but the interwoven day to day picture that is painted of historic events and the everyday business of life brings the story a depth of reality not often found with such richness in historical fiction. The footnotes found at the back of the book are interesting and verify his research.

Major characters are well-developed, the plot has an even flow, and the copy editing is pretty near perfect, all-in-all, it might be called a quality product, certainly a reading pleasure. Even the background details are a fascinating education. But more than that, Day of Remembrance provides an intense spiritual journey for the reader. Because Woolley doesn't go back and pick up many details from the previous books, but just jumps into the story, readers may want to go back to the earlier books to refresh their memories, but even without reading or reviewing the earlier books, this one is a satisfying read.

As I read this book several refrains ran through my mind, first the well-known verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” and Alma the Younger's words to his son, Helaman concerning the brass plates which were incorporated into the golden plates that they would be “kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation.” I was left pondering the reasons God instructed his ancient prophets in the natural laws concerning the calendar and time and those things yet to come to pass according to God's time and covenants. I also checked the calendar to see when the Day of Remembrance falls this year. My calendar places that significant date as September 29, beginning at sundown. This is a novel that entertains, then does much more, and one I highly recommend.

Join author David G. Woolley at his Promised Land Website.

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