The Work and the Glory is perhaps the best known/most successful LDS fiction series out there, and I think I know why.
The Work and the Glory is historical fiction that centers the fictional Steed family around the religious revival in the early 19th century and the Restoration, or the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as LDS or Mormon Church). The Steed family has problems of their own, from a marital conflict to a rebellious son, and their conflicts are deepened as Joseph Smith becomes a part of their lives and they must discover where they stand on his purported visions and calling.
To be honest, this didn’t really “qualify” for my Blindfold Challenge, but I do have a couple of reasons for that.
1. Most LDS fiction is romance, and I already read a romance novel. Let’s not revisit that.
2. The Work and the Glory is a 9-volume set published in hardcover and paperback. The series effectively takes up 2 whole shelves, and I probably would have ended up picking one of them if I’d chosen blindfolded anyways, but not the first volume, and I would have been a little lost, as already happened with the Young Adult novel I read in January.
So instead of choosing blindly, I took a blind recommendation. The first person I asked to recommend any LDS fiction, without missing a beat, said, “The Work and the Glory!” So I read it.
The LDS fiction genre has been tainted by the likes of Jack Weyland, who fill the Mormon fiction shelves with not-so-subtle rehashings of the same story:
Joe met Sally, but she wasn’t a Mormon. So she started investigating the Church, but couldn’t get baptized because her dad who live in California says she’s not allowed. Jack breaks up with Sally to serve a mission in California and baptizes her father. Sally gets baptized while Jack is still on his mission, but gets engaged to someone else. When Jack gets home, some bad things happen, some good things happen, everyone ends up knowing the Church is true, and people get married for eternity.
Rearrange the elements above to your liking.
Needless to say, I was taking the recommendation, but I was hesitant with the genre. I cautiously started reading The Work and the Glory, having carefully plotted out the number of pages I would have to read each day in order to finish in a week and a half. About 40 pages per day.
I read about 80 pages per sitting.
I was drawn in by the fairly decent blending of fiction and history. Lund is a good storyteller, and he weaves the fictional Steed family into the real happenings of upstate New York in the early 1800s. The story was never preachy, and never downright unbelievable.
The only thing I had issues with was the way Lund incorporated the experiences of Joseph Smith and the other real figures of Church History. As an example, fictional Nathan Steed asks Joseph about the rumors he’s been hearing around town, and Joseph shares with Nathan about the vision he had. Lund, writing a conversation, quotes almost verbatim from Joseph Smith’s later, written account of that vision. I mean, I’m glad that Lund didn’t put words into Joseph Smith’s mouth, reinterpreting his vision, or anything. You can just hear the voice change dramatically while you read it. So if you’re familiar with Mormon history, you already know the story, and you expect the writing style to change, and if you’re not familiar with Mormon history, Lund might just come across as a bad writer who suddenly and briefly has a complete change in writing style.
Other than that, I really enjoyed Volume 1 (of 9). I found myself wanting to know how these fictional characters were reacting to their first exposures to the Church that I belong to, and that reminded me of the time I spent as a missionary, sharing that kind of exposure with others.
All in all, a good book that kept me wanting more all the way to the end. By playing to the historical fiction genre, The Work and the Glory avoids becoming another Charly.