In Clouds of Fire: A Story of Community
by Elaine Stienon

"In the end, both of them gave their names for baptism. The service took place that afternoon by the Ordwells’ creek, and even though the water was spring-fed, neither of them felt chilled."

In this book, readers discover a time in America’s history that is often forgotten. Religion, violence, love, and death collide in this story of the early American frontier. The author’s book depicts the early Mormons and their quest for peace and religious freedom. The protagonist is Nathaniel, a young Shaker. His story unfolds as he helps Hannah, a young woman heading from Ohio to Missouri, and his feelings toward her grow. Meanwhile, Nathaniel encounters a cast of characters that give him a new meaning to the word “frontier.” He faces not only the physical and mental challenges but also the emotional ones that the frontier offers. These difficulties force Nathaniel to reflect on his own pacifism as well as the ever-changing society and landscape surrounding him.

Stienon’s novel is an insightful trip through some of the most complex times in American history. It is also an informed look at Mormonism and its relationship to other religions that helped shape the nation. Beneath its examination of belief and values, what the book carefully unearths is the power of not only community but also family. The careful research in this book will appeal to avid historical fiction readers who appreciate a more research-based approach to the genre. However, the true power of the book’s prose is that while it is fact-filled, it is still accessible, and even readers unacquainted with historical fiction will find it engaging. This book is relevant for those seeking a different, more inclusive contribution to the genre because of its community-focused and community-centered message. Adult readers will especially appreciate this book.

Return to USR Home