BOOK TOUR GUEST POST: Lightning Tree by Sarah Dunster
Today, I am excited to bring you a guest post by the author of Lightning Tree, Sarah Dunster! Be sure to check out my review of this book tomorrow.
But first, the book’s blurb:
After surviving the tragic deaths of her parents and baby sister and a harrowing trek across the plains to Utah, it’s no surprise that Maggie’s nights are plagued by nightmares.
But after years of harsh treatment by her foster mother and sisters, and memories that seem to hint at an unthinkable crime, Maggie is forced to strike out on her own. To separate the truth from the dreams, Maggie faces a painful ordeal and learns that she’ll need to put her trust in those around her to survive.
I asked Mrs. Dunster to write about The Importance of Community of the Frontier.
The Importance of Community on the Frontier.
I am so glad I was asked to write on this topic and how it relates to my story, Lightning Tree. It is, after all, the basis for my title—the story about the old tree hit by lightning and the cabin where a family has died because they were so isolated from the community that they couldn’t ask for help when they needed it. It is told to my main character, Maggie, as she is struggling against her own pride to accept the help she needs. It is actually an old story told in various forms in different pioneering communities way back when to emphasize the point that, out in the isolation and hardship of the frontier, you must rely on your neighbors.
My story takes place on the Utah plains, which may have been just about the most isolated place in the United States territory at the time. There was already a gathering community in California and San Francisco due to the gold rush, and of course, communities in the east and burgeoning ones in the midwest. The giant range of the Rocky Mountains was a barrier that adventurers and emigrants had to be serious about to want to cross over. And before the LDS settlers came to Utah, the desert just beyond the Rockies was another formidable obstacle. The Mormon communities actually helped more people make the land journey from east to west because, suddenly, there was a place to stop and buy supplies and tend to other needs and problems incurred on the trail. So even strangers benefitted from the clustered chains of oases of semi-civilization—the pioneer communities—as they made their journey. It’s possible that without the Mormon settlers, there may not have been as much of a gold rush. Salt Lake City was founded in 1847, and (as we all know) the gold rush happened just two years later in ‘49.
My main character’s biggest struggle in this story is her re-discovery of family: what family has been to her in the past, and what it is now after her parents died leaving her and her sister to be taken in by strangers. I believe that back then community operated a lot like an extended family, with the same fierce loyalties and self-sacrifice and bluntness and honesty that occurs in the family setting. I feel that this is something that we are missing today—openness to those who live around us. Openness to their needs, and to their desire to help us when we have needs. I read somewhere—I think it might have been Barbara Kingsolver who said it—that the human habitat has become concrete, iron, and glass. Tiny spaces, people who don’t know each other packed in together. And that’s such a sad picture to me. I think that community could be the answer to so many of the world’s problems.
Lightning Tree will be available for purchase on April 10, 2012. Click HERE for more information, or to purchase!
About the Author
Sarah Dunster is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her poems have been published in Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Segullah Magazine, and Victorian Violet Press. Her short fiction piece, Back North, is featured in Segullah’s Fall 2011 issue. Her novel Lightning Tree will be released in spring of 2012 by Cedar Fort. Sarah has six children and one on the way and loves writing almost as much as she loves being a mom.