The Prophet’s Wife by Libbie Grant: Melding the Personal and the Historical


BY TRISH MACENULTY

Libbie Grant’s highly effective novel, The Prophet’s Spouse (William Morrow, 2022) tells the story of Emma Hale Smith, spouse of Joseph Smith, the founding father of the Mormon faith. In Grant’s telling, Emma is a girl of intelligence, complexity, and power with a deep and abiding religion in God. She acts as her husband’s chief supporter but additionally as his conscience till lastly his dangerous choices pressure her to behave.

The Prophet’s Spouse is the primary ebook the writer has written below the title Libbie Grant. She started writing in 2008 below two different pennames — Olivia Hawker and Libbie Hawker. Since then she has churned out greater than 26 books. She primarily writes historic fiction throughout a variety of eras, however has additionally printed two nice assets for writers: Take Off Your Pants: Define Your Books for Quicker, Higher Writing (2015) and Making it in Historic Fiction (2015). Anybody who attended certainly one of her workshops on the HNS North America Convention in 2021 can attest to the wealth of data and recommendation that she generously shares with different writers.

Below her two pennames, Grant particularly writes for broad enchantment. With this new ebook, Grant is reaching out to a literary viewers whereas nonetheless sustaining industrial enchantment. Grant writes her industrial books with a velocity that may dazzle most of us; nevertheless, this ebook took fairly a bit longer.

“That is positively the ebook that’s been percolating in my mind for the longest,” she mentioned. “I knew I wished to jot down concerning the founding of the Mormon church, nevertheless it took me a number of years of analysis.”

Though that is her first “Libbie Grant” novel, it isn’t her first ebook that delves into the Mormon religion.

“I used to be raised in a really religious Mormon household, and didn’t depart the church till my mid-twenties,” she mentioned. “My ancestors return to the inspiration of the faith. That is my tradition. I wished individuals to know the true historical past and to take it severely.”

Whereas Grant espouses a structured define course of for extra industrial works, she took a distinct method with The Prophet’s Spouse, a narrative which spans 20 years.

“For probably the most half I used to be following the true historical past,” she mentioned. “I went via and made a listing of all the key occasions from 1823 to 1844. I took observe of these which Emma would plausibly be current for or that she might have heard about from another person.”

At first Grant wrote the ebook chronologically, however about midway via she discovered she was dissatisfied with the construction.

“It struck me that one thing wasn’t proper,” she mentioned. “It was feeling a bit of too sluggish to start with.”

writer Libbie Grant

She wound up with a twin timeline, starting with the second of Joseph’s arrest after which alternating that trajectory with the backstory of Joseph’s and Emma’s assembly, their marriage, and their misadventures as they moved ever westward, looking for a house for themselves and their followers.

“Loads of Individuals don’t even notice that non secular teams have been severely persecuted by different Individuals and the federal government,” Grant mentioned, noting that the battle wasn’t one-sided. “Mormons weren’t good neighbors, and their leaders have been oblivious. They didn’t see what they have been frightening or they simply didn’t care.”

It may be intimidating to jot down a novel that doesn’t conform to the accepted narrative of a corporation as rich and highly effective because the Mormon Church.

“It comes with challenges. Joseph is revered, and but I need to be trustworthy about who I feel he was,” Grant mentioned. “Nonetheless, it’s a job that must be approached rigorously. Mormonism remains to be my tradition of origin. It formed my perspective on the world and household and human connections, so it’s been crucial on a private degree and for me as a author.”

Grant’s method was to depict Joseph and Emma and their followers as actual individuals who have human feelings, reactions, and failings. Her objective was to jot down about them in such a approach that readers would join on an emotional degree.

Familial disapproval may scare writers away from a controversial subject, and Grant admits that a few of her members of the family will probably be upset that she broached this subject. Grant doesn’t shrink back from controversy, however she sympathizes with writers who’ve trepidations a couple of private topic which will anger or damage these they love.

“It’s a tough line to stroll, and it’s a legitimate concern to have,” she mentioned. “Everybody has to evaluate their very own consolation degree. It’s a must to consider how keen you might be to threat upsetting somebody. You may at all times shroud the story in fiction and write below a penname to create a buffer between you and the work.”

Grant’s ebook supplies an interesting schooling for these of us who know little concerning the Mormon faith, however Grant acknowledges that many Mormons additionally don’t know the true historical past of the church. She says that Mormonism relies on “esoteric, arcane beliefs from an historical previous” and subsequently has created a novel cultural id. Earlier than Mormons condemn her ebook, Grant hopes that they are going to learn it and kind an opinion for themselves.

One of many essential themes of the ebook is the risks of blind religion, risks particularly related right this moment.

“As a trustworthy Mormon child I grew up believing within the storyline offered by the church. Up till the early Nineties, the church offered Emma Hale Smith as somebody who was against the Prophet and bought in his approach,” she mentioned.

A biography printed in 1984 known as Mormon Enigma by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery offered a distinct, extra nuanced perspective of the prophet’s spouse. Grant learn it  in her early twenties, and ultimately the story grew to become one which Grant felt she needed to write via the lens of fiction.

“I see fiction as an artwork kind that seeks to attach readers with the emotion behind tales. My writing has a goal, a job it’s searching for to perform on this world, and that job is to make readers really feel so that also they are inclined to act,” Grant mentioned. “I don’t simply write to inform a narrative, to entertain. I write with the objective of transferring hearts and altering minds.”

The Prophet’s Spouse has not exhausted Grant’s curiosity within the subject of the Mormon faith. Her subsequent ebook will delve deeper into among the occasions — together with the Mormon Wars — that molded the faith into the establishment it’s right this moment.

 

Concerning the contributor: Trish MacEnulty is the writer of 4 novels, a brief story assortment, and a memoir. She is at the moment getting ready to publish her first work of historic fiction, below the pen title, Patricia Bartlett.



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