Title: The Zion Trail
Author: Marsha Ward
Genre: Western Religious Fiction
Publisher: WestWard Books
Date of Publication: February 19, 2016
Price: $3.99 (ebook formats)
Print edition (March 25) $12.99
On a hot summer day, young Elijah Marshall stops plowing to give a drink of water to two strangers and invite them to lunch with his family. His neighborly act sets in motion events that will drastically change his future.
The strangers share a new religion, which the family embraces. But the neighbors want no part of Mormons. Multiple acts of unkindness and starvation drive the Marshall family to flee to the Mormon city on the banks of the Mississippi River, Nauvoo.
Then the path of Elijah's life takes perilous detours, with twists and turns he never expected to make.
In a 19th century coming-of-age story ranging from Pennsylvania to the Great Salt Lake Valley, Elijah plunges into harrowing adventures filled with sorrow, danger, and romance.
I spent a nervous night under the wagon, anticipating my meeting with strangers. In truth, my family and I would be the interlopers, but that thought did not calm my anxiety. At last the dawn came, and with it, the Sabbath day. I ate the food Ma gave me, but it sat upon my stomach like a lump of rock: undigested and indigestible.
We left our camp nearly forty-five minutes before the appointed hour for the meeting, in case we should get lost. I had worked myself into quite an unsettled condition by the time I pulled the horses to a halt at the appointed street corner.
We had arrived in the center of the town. The streets were practically deserted, cloaked in an appropriate stillness for the Lord’s Day. However, I could see no building resembling a church.
“Are we there, Lije?” Mary Eliza called from the back of the wagon.
I groaned inwardly. She had asked that same question time and time again during our travels. I wondered how Pa stood her infantile questions.
“I’ll find out, Pumpkin.”
I looked from one building to the next, seeking to verify that we had come to the correct intersection in the city. Ma, who sat beside me on the wagon seat, looked as puzzled as I felt. She glanced at the paper in her hand, furrowed her brows, and nodded to me.
We were at the right location, but the directions we had been given had brought us to a saloon.
I stood and surveyed the four corners of the intersection. I was mistaken. I counted one, two, three, four saloons, each one firmly planted on its own corner.
“This cannot be correct,” I muttered, wrapping the lines around the brake handle. “I’ll go ask where the Mormon’s church house is to be found.” I vaulted to the ground and looked around for a friendly face I might approach for guidance.
A sandy-haired man dressed in his Sunday best, accompanied by a woman and four children, came into view from around a corner, walked past us, then stopped before the saloon closest to us. He pulled a ring of keys from his pocket.
Surely he wasn’t taking his family into that den of iniquity?
Sure enough, he unlocked the door, opened it, and headed inside.
Perplexed by his actions, I looked for another avenue for enlightenment, but none was at hand. Needing information, I sidled toward the man and his family, who were filing after him through the doorway.
I caught up to him inside the saloon. “I beg your indulgence,” I said. “Might you give me directions?”
“Certainly, brother,” he replied, which I thought was a strange greeting.
“I’m looking for the Mormon edifice.”
Perhaps I hadn’t imagined a grand enough structure. I tried again. “Cathedral?”
“Oh, you’re looking for their meeting place.”
“You’ve found it, lad.”
“What? Here?” I looked around the bar room in confusion. A depiction of a wanton woman hanging behind the bar caused me to blush.
The man chuckled as the woman I presumed to be his wife handed him a covered basket. “Yes. We have no building of our own, so we rent the saloon. It’s closed on Sundays, you know.”
“You’re a Mormon?”
“Indeed, I am.” He stuck out his hand and grasped mine. “Ralph Peters, at your service. I’m the branch president here.”
“Branch president?” I shook his hand, wondering what the words signified.
He must have guessed at my confusion. “I’m the local leader. Are you of our faith?”
“Newly baptized,” I told him, and pointed toward the door. “My mother and my brother and sister are outside. The elders said we were to come here to meetings.”
He nodded and placed the basket upon the bar. As he took off his hat and coat and began to roll up his shirtsleeves, I shifted my gaze sideways at the bottles lined up behind the bar and noticed that a piece of cloth had been draped over the painting, thankfully covering the nakedness of the soiled woman.
I looked further around the room. A young man of about my age and his younger brother were engaged in stacking the tables in a corner. Bright red hair peeked out from under their caps. A girl nudged a chair into a row. Her braids were not red, but a pleasing yellow color.
Evidently ready to engage in more conversation, Mr. Peters said, “When they last stopped by, Elders Caldwell and Long mentioned they had made converts of several families out in the county. Did your father not come?”
“He’s laid up with injury,” I said. “My older sister is tending to him. He thought it important that we come.”
“And rightly so,” Mr. Peters said. “Saints must gather together for strength, particularly hereabouts.”
Remembering my manners, I gave my name, and that of my mother and siblings.
“Well now, young Brother Marshall, bring in your family and help us make the place decent. We’ll begin on the hour.”
“Once again, Marsha Ward has woven an exciting historical novel. Elijah Marshall's adventures, trials, and faith building experiences as he journeys on The Zion Trail will keep readers turning pages until the end!”
~Loralee Evans, author of The Shores of Bountiful, and other novels.
“Marsha Ward's genius rises to her highest peak in The Zion Trail, with spot-on period terminology and meticulous attention to detail. It pulled me back to that time when my fourth-great-grandfather converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and took that Zion trail, and beyond.”
~Debra Erfert, author of Window of Time, Changes of the Heart, It Takes a Sleuth, and Relative Evil.
“Marsha Ward has long been one of my favorite Western authors. She is a masterful storyteller who paints a picture so vivid, I feel as though I'm peeking back in time and catching a glimpse of life a hundred years before I was born. I highly recommend The Zion Trail.”
~Amelia C. Adams, author of the Kansas Crossroads series.
“A wonderful book with heartwarming characters. I enjoyed every moment of it.”
~Rebecca Shelley, author of the Dragonbound series.
“From an unexpected beginning in Pennsylvania, Elijah Marshall travels through heartbreak to claim his purpose in life. While the story illustrates the early history of the LDS church, the message is one of personal triumph through perseverance, culminating in a most satisfying resolution you won’t want to end.”
~Carolyn Steele, author of Soda Springs and Willow Springs.
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Amazon best-selling author Marsha Ward writes authentic historical fiction set in 19th Century America, and contemporary romance. She was born in the sleepy little town of Phoenix, Arizona, in a simpler time. With plenty of room to roam among the chickens and citrus trees, Marsha enjoyed playing with neighborhood chums, but always had her imaginary friend, cowboy Johnny Rigger Prescott, at her side. Now she makes her home in a forest in the mountains of Arizona. She loves to hear from her readers.
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