I could hardly put this book down. I did not expect to be so engaged in the story, although I was excited to find an author willing to tackle the subject of Mormon history from a Christian perspective. I’ve seen too many cases lately where LDS doctrine is equated with true Christianity, especially by LDS authors who want to be (or already are) seen as Christian. (Note that the term Mormon is now considered pejorative by many LDS adherents, but it was the historically accurate term at the time of this book’s history, so I’m sticking with it in this review.)
Stories of rebellion against parents don’t generally appeal to me, but I appreciated that Camilla’s choices were not excused even though her parents’ version of faith was lacking. Pittman did a good job making all her characters believable and not vilifying any of them without just cause. It was so sad to see the damage that resulted from an unbiblical view of who God is and how to please him, especially with Nathan’s endless pursuit of eternal glory. This book clearly demonstrates the danger that comes with using biblical terms for unbiblical ideas. (For more on that, see my review of Mormonism, Mama, and Me by Thelma Geer.) Some LDS reviewers took exception to the fact that Pittman gleaned much of her research from ex-Mormons, but to the best of my knowledge, everything the story displays is true to history and the Mormon prophets’ own writings. I’ve verified some of those doctrines for myself on the primary LDS website, which is very careful to gloss over some of the more blatant doctrines with biblical-sounding language. Although For Time and Eternity contains a wealth of biblical and historical information, it is not dry or “preachy.” The concepts are woven into the characters’ lives and arise when the story dictates, showing how truth and error affect everyday life.
Because part of that truth and error involves the practice of polygamy, there is some discussion of what that entails. Marital intimacy is mentioned or hinted at several times, but overall, it’s tasteful and not graphic, certainly appropriate for most older readers. The scene I was personally most uncomfortable with involved disrobing for the sake of rejecting certain “sacred garments.” Only husband and wife were present and there was nothing immoral in the scene; it’s simply that I read for the experience of vicariously immersing myself in the story, and that wasn’t a scene I necessarily wanted to be vicariously immersed in. I did appreciate the way Camilla continued to love and honor her husband even when he had sinned against her. That made her decisions all the more powerful, since she was clearly making those decisions based on biblical truth rather than on her own anger or vengefulness.
I knew going into this that it ended on a cliffhanger, so I’m not going to delve into that too much, although it would have been nice to have the story feel more fully resolved even with the teaser for the next book. For that reason and the personally uncomfortable bits, it’s a four-star book for me. But the story and its messages will linger in my mind, and I applaud Allison Pittman for exploring a potentially controversial subject in an engaging, well-written way. Don’t skip the author interview at the end—it adds so much extra context to the story.