'The Winds and the Waves' parallels pioneer, modern challenges

Published: Thursday, July 19 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

As author Dean Hughes writes his 100th book, he has two files open on his 27-inch monitor: one is the current draft — the fourth, at the moment — and the other is a 60-page file of historical notes.

Other books are close at hand in case the details of England or Nauvoo, Ill., in the 1840s need checking for his new series, “Come to Zion.” The recently released first volume of the series, "The Winds and the Waves" (Deseret Book, $24.99), is Hughes’ 99th book.

And, too, there is a large file container with files of his research, also on the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“With LDS readers, they know about Nauvoo,” Hughes said.

He and his wife, Kathleen, served as public affairs missionaries for two years in Nauvoo, where the early Saints settled after leaving Missouri and Ohio and worked to build a city out of the swamp in the bend of the Mississippi River. “It challenges you to give them new insights and new depths to understand.”

Also, there are clichés or stories taken out of context about those early Saints, and while some stories — like the one that they all left via Parley Street by crossing the ice in February — are true for some families but not for all of the pioneers.

“If you tell the story differently from what they’ve heard, they’ll get upset with you,” said Hughes, who also traveled to England, where his and his wife’s ancestors lived and joined the LDS Church, to research the “Come to Zion” series.

'The Winds and the Waves’

In “The Winds and the Waves,” Will Lewis and Jeff Lewis, relatives in different time periods, are frustrated with their current situations. They have jobs that they don’t love and feel like they are in a dead-end situation. Both have dreams that seem nearly impossible to attain.

Will is the son of a tenant farmer who lives in 1840s England and wants nothing more than to own land and do better than just getting by each year, with so much hard labor from his family. And he has his eye on a pretty girl whose family is socially above his, and, unless he can improve his situation, she’s out of reach for him.

In the present day, newlywed Jeff pursued a degree in computer programming, as it seemed more sensible and easier to support a family with than an advanced degree in history.

Hughes parallels the life of Will with that of his descendant Jeff and his wife, Abby, as they face the challenges that life has to offer in “The Winds and the Waves.” The title of this first volume comes from the hymn "Master, the Tempest is Raging" (Hymns, No. 105), which he felt was a metaphor for difficulties and hardships.

“The idea (of showing the parallel stories) was that some things don’t change very much,” Hughes said. “One is stuck out on a farm where he has no chance. One young man has an education but doesn’t feel like (he has) a chance, either.” Hughes developed outlines for Will’s and Jeff’s stories independently. Then he integrated the two outlines and wrote according to this combined outline to make sure the stories fit together. Yet he still revised “The Winds and the Waves” nine times.

Both Will and Jeff lose their jobs and set out to find another — only to find that their situations don’t look much brighter until unexpected unemployment opportunities come that are no less than an answer to prayers.

“We all go through hard times,” Hughes said. “One way or another, people find a way through it.”

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