March 5, 2015

Book Review: "The Wives of Billie's Mountain" by Kelly L. Simmons

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The Wives of Billie's Mountain, by Kelly L. Simmons

The Wives of Billie's Mountain
By Kelly L. Simmons
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Kelly Simmons' The Wives of Billie's Mountain is essentially not much more than a frontier story in the style of Laura Ingalls Wilder, only concerning a Mormon family in Utah in this case, so what you think of it will mostly depend on what you think of Wilder in the first place. Like her, Simmons' novel is a scrupulously researched and authentic-sounding account of the day-to-day lives of hardscrabble homesteaders (the title refers to the multiple wives of a Mormon husband, who were forced to flee their homes when polygamy became illegal in Utah, and who ended up settling in a series of natural caves along the face of the mountain in question), a fascinating look at a time now past and exactly how difficult it must've been to actually survive in such circumstances; but also like Wilder, Simmons' book is all plot all the time, or not even really "plot" so much as "all excruciating minutiae all the time," and those who suspect that they might get terminally bored reading an entire chapter that does nothing but explain step-by-step how a family of children hoed and seeded a garden one spring week would probably be wise to skip both Wilder and Simmons' work altogether. There are natural pluses and minuses to writing a book in this style, a style that's more of a how-to manual than a fully formed three-act novel, so it's unfair to assign a critical judgement to these pluses and minuses; but no matter what side you in particular fall when it comes to this subject, at least The Wives of Billie's Mountain is a well-written and well-researched example of its genre, and will be right up the alley of those who adore "Little House on the Prairie" and want more, more, more. It comes specifically recommended to such readers, although more general audience members might want to think twice before picking it up.

Out of 10: 8.4

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Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, March 5, 2015. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |