Author: Natalie R. Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Sisters and Wives Packs More Than Suspense Between Its Covers
I make it a point to read just about every piece of fiction set in Utah. This area has huge literary potential. Its geography is majestic and, because of its unique culture, it has latent literary possibilities. Unfortunately, I am usually sorely disappointed.
That is because writing about this place requires more than research. Utah--again like the South--is in a class of its own. Research alone doesn’t cut it. A writer needs more than facts; she needs a sense of the religion, of the place, even a feeling for the language. Natalie R. Collins has perfected Utah’s voice. Her Wives and Sisters, a suspense from St. Martin’s Press, fits comfortably within my expectations for fiction set in Utah as well as for a well-written novel.
The protagonist, Allison Jensen (Collins even knows the way Utah names are colored), is a young woman raised in a rustic suburb of Salt Lake City. Rural areas tend to spawn narrow religious thinking, a quality this author captures perfectly in the first chilling chapter.
Readers who enjoy true crime stories will be reminded of the Elizabeth Smart case (although there are many differences): A young Allison watches her friend’s abduction by a bearded man and a young boy and Allison, at the age of six, is unable to do anything about it.
Between this event and the strict climate provided by an ultra-conservative Mormon family, Allison is faced with both psychological and physical constraints. The story of how she builds the strength to overcome them affords enough conflict for any suspense reader. Even better, those who choose Wives and Sisters will come away from this reading with a bonus or two. Even those who know the place well may learn something more about an aspect of this unique culture. They may also sense the attraction of this place nestled at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains and even understand at a visceral level why it is so important that religion and government be kept completely and forever separated. That, for any reader, should put Wives and Sisters at the top of their bedtime reading list for 2005.