Welcome to the blog tour for the Come to Zion series by Dean Hughes! I have two reviews for the first two books in the series, so read on!
Book 1- The Wind and the Waves
Will Lewis is stuck. the class system in England in the 1840s seems destined to keep him in his place as a poor tenant farmer who cannot improve his lot and will never be able to marry the woman he loves. But the "new religion" that is sweeping through congregations of the United Brethren, Will's church, may hold the key to the better life he longs for. As he listens to the preaching of Wilford Woodruff, he almost dares to hope for the Zion the young Apostle describes.
Will's struggles to believe and to face the rigors of immigrating to an unknown land are paralleled by the modern-day story of Jeff and Abby, a young married couple facing challenges of their own. When Jeff begins digging into his family history, he finds himself particularly drawn to "Grandpa Lewis," an ancestor whose life was more like his than he would have imagined.
The skillful interweaving of these two stories brings Church history to life while demonstrating how much we can learn from those who went before us. Anyone who has ever faced the winds and the waves, in some form, will love this novel.
Book 2- Through Cloud and Sunshine
Nauvoo was supposed to be the kingdom of God on earth, but Will and Liz Lewis are learning that it takes more than dreaming of Zion to make it a reality. Sickness, poverty, and just plain human nature add to the struggles for the Lord's people, but every now and then a glimpse of heaven shines through. Just when things are starting to get settled, though, the old problems start rearing their heads, leaving Will and others wondering if they will be there to reap the harvest they have so carefully sown.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Abby—in modern-day Nauvoo—are dealing with challenges of their own. As their newborn baby fights for his life, they must come to grips with their personal faith. Can they, like their ancestors, continue to trust in God when there seems to be no trace o Him in their trials?
Beloved novelist Dean Hughes skillfully interweaves the stories of two couples separated by five generations and 150 years, providing a unique perspective on Church history and showing how much we can learn from those who went before us.
About the Author:
Dean Hughes has published books for readers of all ages, including the bestselling historical fiction series Children of the Promise. Through Cloud and Sunshine is his one-hundredth published book. Dean holds a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University and master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Washington. He has taught English at Central Missouri State University and Brigham Young University. Dean and his wife, Kathleen Hurst Hughes, served a mission to Nauvoo, Illinois. The parents of three children and grandparents of nine, they live in Midway, Utah.
Will Lewis was in search of something more in his life. The son of a tenant farmer in England, Will is enthralled with the talk of factory jobs and getting away from the farm. Life in the big city doesn't turn out as planned though, but Will feels something drawing him back home. He does manage to actually better himself, but by then Will and his new wife Liz are involved with a new religious movement. His new church promises a Zion in America- the city of Nauvoo to be exact. Will and Liz are excited to go, but they will discover that the journey to Zion may be the hardest part. Meanwhile in the current time, Jeff and Abby are dealing with problems of their own. They also end up in Nauvoo, but in a completely different manner. They too will deal with struggles with faith and finding their place in this world.
I found this book a little hard to get into initially. I sort of felt thrown into the story. Once I got it all figured out though, I didn't want to put the book down. The two stories were very interesting indeed. Most of the book revolved around Will and Liz, but their story neatly ties in with Jeff and Liz's story. Although they live many years apart, they have some similar issues to deal with. Both couples deal with struggles with trying to make the best lives that they can for each other and dealing with their faith. These are complicated issues, but you can feel for the characters as they go through them.
The passage over from England to Nauvoo was horrific, and you feel for Will and Liz (and everyone else). I can't imagine giving up everything and traveling to a new country in that manner. It takes a great deal of faith and dedication which Will and Liz clearly had. Jeff and Abby show these same traits as they move to Nauvoo as well. This book really drew me in, and I felt connected to the story and characters. It brought a new light (and some interesting information) to LDS church history. I was sad when it ended, so I'm glad I have the second one to read already. The ending leaves things hanging a bit, but it was still a good ending. If you like historical novels with realistic characters, check this book out!
Book provided for review.
Review of Through Cloud and Sunshine:
Nauvoo is supposed to be Zion, but it's proving to be slightly less than perfect for Jeff and Abby. Similarly, their ancestors Will and Liz found Nauvoo to be an unforgiving place. Death, sickness, and poverty were among the top of their worries. Survival was not going to be easy. However, Will and Liz are able to see past that at times to what Nauvoo could be like under the right circumstances. There will be many more struggles than good times though, and Will and Liz will have their faith tested to the max. Likewise, Jeff and Abby will have to work hard to find the good in their situation. Maybe with a lot of work Nauvoo can become the place it was meant to be for all four people.
This is a sequel to The Wind and the Waves, but there is a very good summary in the beginning, so you don't feel like you've missed anything. It was exciting to read because these characters are familiar and feel like old friends if you've read the first book. Once again, the main story is with Will and Liz, while Jeff and Abby prove to be a small side story that shows remarkable connection to Will and Liz. There are a lot of struggles here, particularly for Will and Liz. As they struggle through things with the other early LDS members, you get a real feel for the hardships they faced. While Nauvoo was supposed to be Zion, the reality was much different.
What I really enjoy about these books is the author's choice to take on the negative aspects in church history head-on. There were a lot of bad things that happened (and bad people to go along with them), and none of them are glossed over or ignored. It really shows how hard it can be to keep with faith when flawed people are involved. Will and Liz really struggle with their decision to come to Nauvoo still, and I can't say that I blame them. I really appreciate the struggle that they went through. Jeff and Abby have some equally heart wrenching moments. This book kept me interested to the end, and I can't wait to read more!