Book review: Jean Holbrook Mathews' latest novel 'Safe Haven' proves to be inspiring, gripping

By Danica Baird

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, April 21 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"SAFE HAVEN," by Jean Holbrook Mathews, Covenant Communications, $16.99, 276 pages (f)

After Susanna Thayer’s dad died and left her family destitute, her entire world changed in "Safe Haven," a pioneer-era novel. Then to top it all off, Jonathan Burnley, her lifelong best friend, rescinds his offer to marry her and announces his plan to marry one of his cousins who is far wealthier than Susanna.

Jonathan’s announcement leaves Susanna heartbroken and struggling to move on, but she is determined to help her family. So when she sees the advertisements for workers at a cotton mill in Lowell, she jumps at the chance. While at the mill, Susanna finds the work is hard but also finds a new best friend in her fellow employee, Jane. But when their employer finds out Jane and Susanna have joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they are fired.

With only meager savings, Jane and Susanna struggle to find a way to join the Mormons who are bound for California on the ship Brooklyn. However, after carefully saving their money and with a little help from others, Jane and Susanna are finally able to earn passage on the Brooklyn.

They knew the journey would be rough, but they didn’t expect to face near-death experiences. They quickly learn that tomorrows aren’t guaranteed, and that if you want to find real love, you have to have the courage to seek it. The only question is whether Susanna and Jane will have the courage and faith to see their journey through.

Jean Holbrook Mathews’ decision to base her novel off of the experiences of real pioneers laid the foundation for a great novel. Then her stellar writing and beautifully crafted characters cinched the deal. While there are several novels about LDS Church pioneer experiences, Mathews’ novel stands out against the rest due to her writing and gripping plot.

Readers will find themselves celebrating the characters’ successes, crying over the trials they face, and desperately hoping they get their happily ever after in the end. This novel might be different from Mathews’ other novels, but it is definitely just as compelling. While the plot may move slowly at times, "Safe Haven" is never dull and readers may find themselves flipping the pages faster and faster until they reach the last page.

Mathews’ novel is written in a way that readers of any age could enjoy. For readers looking for an entertaining, uplifting story set against a historical background, they won’t find a better book than "Safe Haven."

Danica Baird is currently attending Brigham Young University and is pursuing a double major in English and journalism.

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