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Tributary by Barbara K. Richardson
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Thirty years of Clair Martin’s life make up the pages of Tributary. A life of scorn, preaching, pain, suffering and justification, all told in first person by Barbara Richardson. Born with a large birthmark, Clair’s mother left her in Utah while very young. She was passed off by the Mormons to various people in the Church who were in need of help. No one helped Clair, it was up to her to make it or not. She got encouragement from one widow for her lovely flower cards which she sold for spending money.
She is nearly raped by a son of one of the Church elders and decides it is time for her to leave Utah for points South and East. She lands in New Orleans where she becomes a laundress in the colored ward of a local hospital. She falls in love with a little boy she names Tierre (“T”). He’s back and she’s not but it doesn’t matter to Clair because he becomes the son she cares for and raises to read, study and work hard. They decide, after receiving a long letter from the widow, to return to Utah and go North to a sheep ranch owned by the lady’s son, Stephen.
There’s nothing in northern Utah and not much in Clair’s soul when she finds, ultimately, that Stephen has converted to Mormonism and already has two young wives. He wants a third – Clair – but she won’t give in.
Through the 1850’s to the 1880’s, Clair and her friends, enemies and T travel dirt roads by foot, wagon and horseback to learn what God and Brigham Young have in store for them. The scenery is so well described that I could see it with my eyes closed and living in New Orleans in the 1870’s! There must have been nothing like it.
An outright wonderful story by the author of Guest House and one you should take the time to read slowly to enjoy the moods and thoughts of a self-made woman dealing in a world of men. ( )
  macygma | Aug 23, 2012 |
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Willa Cather and Sandra Dallas resonate in Barbara K. Richardson's fearless portrait of 1870s Mormon Utah. With "lyrical prose and heartfelt characters" (Publishers Weekly), this lively novel tracks the extraordinary life of one woman who dares resist communal salvation in order to find her own. Clair Martin's dauntless search for self leads her from the domination of Mormon polygamy to the chaos of Reconstruction Dixie and back to Zion where she learns from Shoshone Indian ways how to take her place, at last, in the land she loves.… (more)

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