Turning Point by Laurel Mouritsen
Reviewed by Jennie Hansen
Driving to Nauvoo for the dedication of the new Nauvoo Temple? Curious about how the old Nauvoo with all its heart-tugging history blends with today’s modern culture? Laurel Mouritsen’s new book Turning Point gives a glimpse of this blending of the old and the new. On tape, the book provides four-and-a-half hours of enjoyable listening that makes the miles fly by and would be particularly appropriate for anyone traveling to Nauvoo at this time. It is available in print as well for those who like to savor a story at greater length and return easily to favorite passages.
Turning Point begins with a leisurely cross-country car and bike tour undertaken by two young women, Anne and Carly, who are celebrating their graduation from a Colorado university. Anne, who received a degree in art history, doesn’t have a job lined up, though her friend, Carly, will begin a new job the Monday after they finish their tour. Carly also has a family eagerly awaiting her return, while Anne has never enjoyed a close relationship with her family and has never gotten along well with her mother.
On a narrow, winding road which follows the Mississippi river between Keokuk, Iowa, and Nauvoo, Illinois, Anne is hit by a car and nearly loses her life. She awakens in a hospital in Keokuk with vague memories of a beautiful dream and a woman who reminds her to be faithful to her trust. The mysterious woman was kind and gentle. She seemed to care about Anne, only Anne doesn’t know what the woman was talking about
Carly stays with Anne for the last week of their vacation, then must leave to begin her new job. She tries to contact Anne’s family, but her parents are away and she has no idea where her brother might be. The only person she can reach to tell about Anne’s accident is Anne’s boyfriend, Jaden in Colorado, who flies out to see her. She has another visitor, too, Bridger Caldwell. Bridger was a passenger in the car that struck Anne. He is an engineering student doing a graduate project involved in the restoration of Old Nauvoo, a Mormon, and is deeply concerned about the woman he felt prompted to give a blessing as she lay in the road near death.
Jaden is jealous and angry over Bridger’s visit. He demands that Anne return to Colorado with him, but her doctor won’t release her to travel and Jaden finally leaves alone, expecting Anne to follow as soon as her doctor releases her. But when Anne is released from the hospital, she has a few days before her flight back home, and curiosity leads her to visit Nauvoo and see the project Bridger is working on. Bridger arranges for her to spend the weekend at one of the restored homes with a group of girls from BYU and she ends up sharing a room with McKell Hunt from Portland, Oregon.
By the end of the weekend, Anne is persuaded to extend her stay since she has no job waiting for her, no close family ties, and she’s uncertain she wants to rush into marriage with Jaden. As her stay in Nauvoo lengthens, her attachment to the town, to her roommate, and to Bridger becomes stronger while her dissatisfaction with Jaden’s behavior and controlling demands troubles her more with each contact. She is intrigued, too, by the flashes of memory of the dream and the brief illusory glimpses of the woman she remembers from the dream. Eventually Anne finds a job working in an art supply store that also handles a small gallery, and she and McKell arrange to stay on for the remainder of the summer.
As Anne learns about the historic town, she also learns about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several encounters with the woman she first saw in a dream following her accident leads her to learn more about the people and the place to which her accident brought her. Something about the temple site seems to draw her, and it becomes a place where she likes to go to be quiet and think. The woman, dressed as the women of Historic Nauvoo, seems to want something of her that is connected to the temple block. Though the woman intrigues her, Anne isn’t certain whether she is real or a product of her imagination.
The woman from Anne’s dream isn’t the only element of mystery; someone seems to be following her. The same green car seems to be lurking near the house where she is staying and her friends report seeing it following her whenever she leaves the house, though it speeds up and disappears whenever she or her friends try to discover who the driver might be.
Bridger learns his boss is involved in some illegal activity and Anne finds herself in danger as she attempts to help Bridger find the evidence to prove his suspicions. Jaden returns to Nauvoo at this time, determined to take Anne back to Colorado with him and to punish Bridger for luring his girlfriend away from him.
McKell’s promise to her mother to do some family research while in Nauvoo introduces Anne to the basics of genealogy, and Anne is surprised to discover she had ancestors who lived in the old river town and that they were Mormons. She feels as saddened by those ancestors’s deaths before the temple was completed as she would if she had known them personally.
Sister Mouritsen, who has a degree in history and has written several novels dealing with Church history, has a particular fascination with the Nauvoo period. She uses this knowledge effectively in Turning Point to introduce bits of history and to provide the reader with a feel for the dreams and sacrifices that went into building Nauvoo and especially the temple there. She lets the reader see the similarities between those who slowly gained a knowledge of the gospel and the divinity of Jesus Christ in the nineteenth century and the gradual development of those same concepts in today’s twenty-first century investigator. There is a subtle quality to the way Mouritsen leads her readers to see the reconstruction of the temple and the work that will be done there as the culmination of the dreams and sacrifices of those who lost their lives before the original temple’s completion and brief period of use.
Turning Point contains an element of mystery, a sweet love story, and a wealth of information on historical Nauvoo and on the current restoration. The story is highly enjoyable, but the historical background is fascinating. The gradual conversion element of the story feels authentic. Whether choosing to read the book or share the tape while driving, Turning Point is a thought provoking experience, one sure to entertain and enlighten.
2002Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.