Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review - In the Company of Angels by David Farland

I’ve often heard the term manifest destiny in relationship with the expansion of the United States and the pioneers who headed west during the 19th century. The growth of our nation was inevitable and destined to happen as more people arrived in America and wanted to make their dreams come true.

For some that dream had to do with their freedom to worship God as they pleased and not as others deemed they should. Those who followed Joseph Smith and believed that he saw God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, being able to worship as they pleased became very difficult. Many times the Mormons were forced to leave their homes, sometimes in the dead of night, to save their lives. Before Joseph Smith was killed he had a revelation that the saints should go west, far away from bigotry and those who sought to do them harm. And so, when the prophet was murdered, the saints journeyed west and became part of the manifest destiny of our nation.

Many made the journey over a number of years. In fact my great, great grandparents fled Nauvoo and came west with the Heber C. Kimball Company in 1848, so I’ve heard my share of pioneer stories. One story stands out because of the intense hardships of their journey, that of the Willie Handcart Company of 1856.

It’s one thing to hear about these stories of courage and bravery, quite another to see it through the eyes of people who were there, people so hungry that they ate the skin from their knuckles, people whose feet bleed as they walked through the snow over Rocky Ridge, and people whose testimonies were so strong that they heard and saw angels helping them along the way. Reading David Farland’s novel, In the Company of Angels, puts you in the story. You can smell buffalo chips burning in the pioneers' campfires, feel the pioneers’ fear as they learn of friends attacked by the Cheyennes, and grieve as they bury their babies and husbands along the trail. This is a novel that will fill your heart with gratitude and love for those who sacrificed everything for what they believed. Here is part of the story line from the book’s cover:

In the Company of Angels centers on Eliza Gadd, the feisty, sophisticated wife of a Mormon bishop. When her husband answers his leader’s call to abandon his cottage in England and settle in the Rocky Mountains, Eliza’s world comes apart. She may help her husband pull a handcart with everything that they own across the plains…but she won’t bring herself to bow to a god she doesn’t believe in.

Stalled by setbacks, the pioneers find themselves forced to take their journey perilously late in the season. The lives of Eliza’s children hang in the balance. But how can she reason with people who believe they are in the hands of angels, that their faith can turn back storms, and that their leaders like the Apostles of old, have the power to raise the dead?

Farland won Best Novel of the Year for this book at the Whitney Awards held in April. As he accepted his award he told the audience how he came to write this novel. He said, “Ghosts came to me in a dream and asked me to write their story.” Farland is a convert to Mormonism, his mother was a devote Baptist. As he wrote this story, he would send his mother parts of it to read. If she didn’t hear from him for a while, she would call and ask him what he was doing about “their” story. When his mother passed away, Farland took his inheritance and published this book.

Even though David Farland has had many books published, has written screenplays in China and has taught writing classes throughout the nation, you could say In the Company of Angels was part of Farland’s manifest destiny, for only he could write this touching novel to remind us of those who sacrificed everything for what they believed. I strongly recommend this book become part of your family’s library. It will become a classic.

(I purchased this book and reviewed it because I liked it.)


  1. I love reading a review just because the reader loved it. I will for sure check out this book. Thanks Kathi! =)

  2. I wish I bought this at the conference!! I really want to read it. I did just read The Runelords and analyzed it according to his "writing for the masses" but really want to read this. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Kathi. :)

  3. You're welcome, Carolyn. It's a great book.

  4. Mary, I think you'll really like it. I'll have to check out The Runelords.



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