Last October Stealing Mercy went free. Within days it to soared to the top of Amazon’s free charts and it stayed there for months. (Just yesterday it made another brief appearance on Amazon’s top 100 historical romance list.) Because a number of readers had issues with the continued disappearance of Cousin Rita, I set out to write her story. And I did. I wrote a novella, had it edited, sent it to beta readers and told my formatting guy to get ready because I was going to publish again.
But I can’t do it. Rita needs a whole novel, not just half a story, and the story I told wasn’t the story I started out to tell. There’s a mail ordered bride to be rescued, a traveling acting troupe, a villain with wives in every city. Polygamy is mentioned, my characters travel through 1889 Salt Lake City—a year before plural marriage is banned. It’s a great story, very fun. Someday I’ll share it.
But in my heart there’s a better story. And it’s true. And anyone who isn’t of my faith will never understand. I don’t know to make them see what I see. Or maybe I’m just not brave enough to try. Yet.
William was an attorney—the liaison between the US government and the Utah territory. About the time that William fell out of favor with Brigham Young and church leaders, his second wife left him and took with her William’s children. The rumor is that the man the second wife left him for was also having sex with William’s twelve year old daughter. William went to that man’s home and shot him in the head.
In any case, Martha didn’t follow him. Instead, accepted a teacher’s post in Idaho and it was there she raised her children as Mormons, who loved and believed in the teachings of a restored gospel. In spite of everything that she went through. She didn’t return to her family in Chicago. She raised her four children and taught them, and others, the best that she knew how. It must have been cold, windy, and bleak. (I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine Idaho any other way.)I’m sure they were poor. I hope they were treated kindly, despite the family scandal.
To me, that story is just as miraculous as Moses parting the Red Sea. And I can’t even tell it with the power it deserves. There is a quote I love by Friedrich Nietzsche-- And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
How can I explain the music to Stealing Mercy’s 70 thousand readers? I don’t even know how to try. But I feel my grandmother’s story is so closely tied to Rita’s that I have to tell it. When I’m ready. When I’ve figured out how to find the words.
An interesting side note, more pertinent to those who understand Mormon doctrine than to those who don’t. Several years after my marriage I read the Life and Times of William Hickman and when I came to the end of the book I learned that many years after his death, William’s temple work was done. The man who granted that privilege? Franklin D Richards, then president of the quorum of the twelve, my husband’s great grandfather.