Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Book Review: Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears (Whitney Finalist 2013)
Author: Gale Sears
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Digital Copy
This book would be rated: PG
Jonathan Napela and his wife, Kitty, are one of Maui's power couples of the 1850s, related to the king, and holding positions of power and influence. However, they also know the personal heartache of losing their infant children. Jonathan, in particular, wants a satisfying answer for where his ancestors and his children have gone. When George Q. Cannon arrives with the first group of Mormon missionaries to Hawaii, he feels prompted to head to Hawaii, where Napela becomes one of his most dedicated converts. Belonging to Heaven follows the story of Jonathan Napela, from the time he starts investigating the church, and progresses through his life as he endures to the end.
Gale Sears is one of our strongest authors of LDS historical fiction, and while I felt that the end of the book was ultimately satisfying, it was hard for me to get into Belonging to Heaven. The first chapter felt almost completely unnecessary, and for a while I had a hard time knowing whose story this would really be, since the early chapters seemed to focus more on Cannon than on Napela. Also, I really, really, really think that Sears should ditch the footnotes at the end of each chapter-- all but a few of them seemed superfluous, and those that are necessary could go at the end of the novel. Despite these shortcomings, I learned a lot about the early church in Hawaii and I was deeply moved by the final chapters of the novel.