Like many of you, I learned about the nitty gritty details of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Sunday School and Seminary. But the lives of the people involved didn’t come alive for me until I read The Work and the Glory series by Gerald N. Lund. Since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the author who helped me realize that history didn’t have to be boring and that historical fiction is a fabulous way to learn. A few years ago he wrote Undaunted, the incredible story of the Hole in the Rock Pioneers. I was so pleased when I learned he wrote a sequel!
Only the Brave picks up four years after Undaunted left off and unlike most sequels, introduces us to a brand new set of characters. Mitch Westland is a young man with definite opinions about his family’s new call to settle in Bluff. Opinions that don’t always line up with his parent’s. Only the Brave follows Mitch as he grows from an impulsive youth into a responsible young man. It doesn’t take long for him to meet someone he might want to spend eternity with, but while he’s worrying about whether or not she has what it takes to be his wife, he never takes the time to examine whether he has what it takes to be the man for her…
As a storytelling historian, Gerald Lund seamlessly weaves important and exciting historical events into the lives of his characters. The many stories of the San Juan Pioneers certainly fall under the category of “you can’t make this stuff up”. Over and over again, the most incredible stories were the true ones. The woman who pulls a “Rapunzel” and smacks a wandering man upside the head with a frying pan for trying to take food from her table without working for it. The men who pacify a large group of warriors bent on war. The man who survives a severe and infected bullet wound because of some friendly and quick thinking Indians. These are real stories. The San Juan Pioneers were called to live at the edge of civilization. To serve as a buffer, or “shock absorber” between the rest of the Saints and outlaws, land hungry cattle barons, and at least three Native American tribes. As I read I continued to be amazed and grateful for their strength and sacrifice. I will add this book to my ample collection of the literary works of Gerald Lund and add it to the list of books I want to read to my kids.
This was a short book by Lund’s standards, and while Only the Brave concludes (as far as we can tell) the story centering around the San Juan Pioneers, I was delighted to read that Mitch and Edie’s story would be continued in his new series A Generation Rising (which I got for Christmas and can’t wait to start!)