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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Before the Dawn by Dean Hughes

Before the Dawn by Dean Hughes offers a great mix of entertainment for the LDS reader. Dean Hughes is somewhat of a legend in LDS author circles. He’s a man I admire. In fact, I had a copy of Under the Same Stars, his first LDS novel (which was in fact the first LDS novel, but that’s another story) as a girl. So, I was excited to get my hands on Before the Dawn, and I wasn’t disappointed by what I found inside its cover.

Leah is a crusty and no-nonsense woman who has pretty much carried the world on her shoulders for most of her adult life. She’s not exactly active in the church and doesn’t hold many of the women in the Relief Society in any type of regard, much less high regard. So when the bishop shows up and tells her the Lord is insisting that she be the new Relief Society president Leah has a few things to say about it. Mainly: There is no way on earth I could do or even want this job. (Oh, for the strength of will to be able to voice my own frustrations at difficult callings so well . . . :}) Still, when it’s all said and done, she is convinced by the Spirit despite her better judgment. She then proceeds to offend half the Relief Society and set the other half straight in a good way. It was a great and challenging journey to take with Leah.

There were sections of the story that were choppy-- the flow and timing was abrupt, as if there were sections that had been edited out, but not adjusted for in the writing. It would take me a few second to jump back into the story, but I did because I had fallen completely in love with Leah. She was well-mastered and whole, she was a person to me that I would have loved to know. Leah probably would have put me into tears a few times, but I would have admired her beyond words.

Before the Dawn is set during the Depression, making the story very timely for our weird world of worry and uncertainty. It made me even more grateful for the blessings I have that often go over looked. It also made me take a keener look at how well I’m prepared to deal with all the problems life can throw at you when you least expect it. I got an in depth look at the history, the people, and the workings of the church during this difficult time through the eyes of a single mother who was doing the best she could to make it through each new day.

It also made me want to be a better person. That’s one of the key things I look for in a work of fiction. I want a good story that is well told with characters I can relate to. I want to feel good about the things I read, even have fun with them. And, I want to feel I’ve become a better person in some way for my time spent within the pages. Before the Dawn really fit the bill for me. It was time well spent and I’ve found a new hero in Leah.

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