A conversation with Allison Pittman is included at the end of For Time & Eternity and I wanted to follow up my review with most, if not all, of that conversation. For those who have read or plan to read this book, Allison gives some good background and insight.
How did the idea for this book come to you?
I lived in Utah as a child, and my husband is an excommunicated Mormon who came to know Jesus as his Savior when he was in high school, so I had a lot of anecdotal experiences to pull from. But to get a real feel for the history, I spent some time in Salt Lake City. The Pioneer Women's Museum there is a treasure trove of artifacts, all the little household trinkets that made up a woman's life. The blue lamp is just one of the artifacts I fell in love with - that and the crazy jug that will appear in the next book.
I think what really struck me - and this is something I've shared and confirmed with other Christians - is the spirit of Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The city is beautiful and meticulously maintained, but there is an oppressive air. It's quiet, but not serene. Something about that huge, white temple topped with a golden angel is unsettling.
I also spent a lot of time browsing Web sites and discussion boards reading posts by ex-Mormons. They gave me a clearer understanding not so much about why people join the church, but why they stay and why they leave. It's heartbreaking, the stories of bitterness and betrayal, even more so seeing how so many leave the Mormon faith with a mistrust of God and religion in general. I wanted to capture that sense of a desperate need for love and acceptance in Nathan's character. There are many anonymous people out there who were so helpful in my efforts to capture both Nathan's fervor and Rachel's just-beneath-the-surface disdain.
It's a fascinating time in our nation's history, something that doesn't get a lot of attention, especially looking into the next book, which will touch on the so-called Mormon War and the conflict between the church and the United States government. However, even though this story takes place with the first generation of the LDS church, their method of amassing converts has changed very little. Today, in these times of fractured families, the Mormon message of family values has so much appeal. In fact, that's what drew my husband's family into the church back in the mid-1970s. I took that idea and molded it to fuel Nathan's devotion to the church.
I also wanted to address the idea of polygamy outside the realm of modern controversy. Plural marriage as Mormon doctrine is a historical fact - interestingly ignored in the Church History Museum but openly addressed in the Pioneer Women's Museum. I was intrigued by the idea of looking at the practice through the eyes of a first wife - not with the wide scope of examining the sociopolitical implications, but a snapshot of the powerlessness of the time.
(To be continued...)