Young John Shefford, a tenderfoot from Illinois who's escaping from his troubled past, heads west to follow up the curious legend of three people who live imprisoned in isolated Surprise Valley, one of whom is a beautiful young girl named Fay Larkin. Shefford, half in love with the girl he's never met, is determined to find the valley and free her, if she's still alive.
Shefford finds himself nearly overwhelmed with his experiences of the incredible beauty of the high desert territory, his new life working for the small trading posts there, his first encounters with friendly Navajos as well as dangerously hostile Indians, his ideas regarding the Mormon men and their "sealed wives", and his encounter with real love, all of which work their changes in him. He comes out a man made true and good, finally freed from the feelings of shame he had harbored so long.
©2003 Zane Grey, Inc.; (P)2004 Blackstone Audiobooks
First, this Audible book is not for everyone. This book was written in 1915 when the timeframe of this Southwestern USA novel was nearly contemporary. It is the sequel to the novel that invented Zane Grey, his masterpiece, "The Riders of the Purple Sage."
Zane Grey had a love/hate relationship with Mormons. He hated the first-stage, polygamy and prophet-based Mormon religion and loved their believers. Some of the Mormon characters are portrayed in the very worst of their depraved manner. The old Southwest was a tough, lawless place and Mormon Country was ruled by a theocracy with little submission to the laws of the United States. The plot is heavy on polygamy and sealed wives. In fairness Zane Grey has little good to say about any religious person in this novel.
Obviously people in 1915 spoke much differently than people today. Thus the prose gets lengthy/run-on, stilted and more than a little preachy. Zane Grey has an obsession with beginning each chapter with a dense word picture of the incredible scenic West. This goes on and on for quite a while and can frustrate modern listeners. The characters are drawn naive and simple. They accept their fate stoically. There are some very neat conclusions to very complex issues and problems. Novels of that age tended to jump to near miraculous outcomes...read Horatio Alger. Finally, the protagonist, John Shefford, goes into long tedious passages of self-doubt, self-realization of the obvious and very flowery language about not much of anything.
The fun part of this review is to say what is incredible. All Westerns pale in comparison to the authenticity of this novel. This is a wonderful love story. There are adventures and perils that would not be written by a modern author. The array of characters are interesting and the plot surges with a momentum to a satisfying conclusion. This novel will hold your imagination. This is the full, non-expurgated text lost for years due to censorship and thus a priceless Western.
I had heard of Zane Grey for many years but set him aside in my own mind as a cowboy, pulp kind of writer.
However, this book turned me around. It is a fine way to pass the time, and the reader Jim Gough is a master for this genre. I wish he would do more readings. Zane Grey is a wonderful master of writing "in colour", as the Brits would spell it.
Zane Grey is one of my most favorite western writers. But, sadly, the release of this long forgotten book has reminded me of another era when Mormon bashing was popular and acceptable. This hate filled story against the LDS people of the 19th century should have remained unpublished and not have reminded us of Zane Grey's darker side.
This inaccurate portrayal of the early Mormon way of life is disgusting and offensive to anyone who knows the LDS people. I found the story so offensive that I eventually had to turn it off!
Unless you are a bigot don't waste your money on this book...buy one of his other ones.
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