Alfred Woollacott, III is a fascinating man obsessed with history - in the right kind of way. As he states on his website, `My genealogical journey began while chauffeuring [wife] Jill, her mother and two of their octogenarian cousins around England in 1999. As I lay awake, I said to Jill, "Once I retire, I'm going to work on my family tree." In 2002, I retired from KPMG, a firm where I had spent my entire career spanning some 34 years. When a fellow partner asked, "Al, you're too young to retire, what are you going to do now?" I responded, "What I have always done, except I won't be going to work." Filling in the '50 to 60 hour per week void' that retirement created was easy. Believe me, retirement is highly underrated. I honored the vow I made while in England and dabbled with my family history until a post on a genealogy website from a Charles HB Cole looking for information on the Fitchburg Woollacotts captured me. Charles's work was extensive; I was even in it. In no time, the Woollacott leg of my stool was far extended. I was hooked on family history and needed more. When my brother and I traveled to Devon in 2007, we had a lovely lunch with Charles and his family. After lunch, Charles calculated that we were 6th cousins. Like a dutiful auditor, I checked his calculations - he was correct. I told him about the love/hate relationship with genealogy that he had created within me. He laughed, and I sensed he knew what I was experiencing. When his wife added that while on their honeymoon Charles was in the library doing genealogy, I was certain that Charles knew. My adult life was spent crunching numbers and verifying assertions. So researching dates and concluding on supporting evidence comes easy to me. I received a B. S. in Business Administration ('68) and later an MBA ('71), both from Boston University. English literature, composition and creative writing were not in my college education. And at KPMG, creative writing was strictly forbidden - just the facts and then a conclusion. So transporting my wonder about an ancestor out of my head and onto paper does not come easy. So now my family history dabbling has become an obsession with dates and places stuck to my head like tossed Velcro balls hanging from a fuzzy dartboard. And the wonder, why it just permeates continuously.'
Given all that, what unveils in his THE BELIEVERS IN THE CRUCIBLE NAUVOO is a story written with such verve and grace that every page captures past time and makes it now. Perhaps that is because it comes form Woollacott's genes, but fine reading it is for a long winter's night. Very briefly, ` Reuben Law's daughter Susanna, her husband, two of their children, and Reuben's granddaughter Naamah, like so many from the Peterborough, New Hampshire in the 1840s, were inspired by Joseph Smith teachings and traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois. This Part 2 of a trilogy is a meticulously researched novel, that weaves the momentous events of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom and Brigham Young’s succession with Naamah’s story and offers differing perspectives to create a mosaic of Nauvoo, the crucible out of which arose today’s Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. After enduring early parental deaths, Naamah Carter discovers renewed meaning to her strong Christian beliefs through Joseph Smith’s testaments. His following in Peterborough, New Hampshire flourishes, yet Naamah, her beloved Aunt Susan, and other believers suffer family strife and growing community resentment. She leaves her unfriendly situation and journeys to Nauvoo to be among thousands building their Prophet‘s revelation of an earthly Zion on a Mississippi River promontory. There, her faith is tested, enduring loss of loved ones and violence from those longing to destroy Nauvoo. With the western exodus imminent, she faces a decision that runs counter to her soul and all she holds sacred - whether to become Brigham Young’s plural wife.’
Writing of this quality is immensely rewarding for the reader. Not only does the author treat us to history - he also entertains us with a multifaceted tale that has a new level of pertinence as the chapters unfold. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 17
Al Woollacott’s first novel, The Immigrant, is the story of John Law, the author’s direct descendant, who arrived in Boston in 1651 in chains as a Scottish prisoner of war. The novel chronicles Law’s many challenges in the new world which include the dangers posed by a Puritan theocracy, English bigotry, and restless Native Americans.
In a new book entitled The Believers in the Crucible Nauvoo, a second novel of a planned trilogy, Mr. Woollacott tells the story of another distant relative named Naamah Carter. The novel is set in Peterborough, N.H. and Nauvoo, Ill. This meticulously researched novel weaves together several historical events pertaining to the Mormon church — their struggle to survive in a hostile environment, the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, and the succession of Brigham Young.
Needing a strong support group following the death of her parents, Naamah joins a growing group of Mormons in Peterborough. Though the Mormon church flourishes in Peterborough, growing community resentment leads Naamah to join thousands in Nauvoo, the place selected by Joseph Smith to create an earthly Zion on the Mississippi River. There, her previous acquaintance with John Twiss blossoms into marriage. Sadly, however, her faith is tested when her husband tragically dies from a malaria-like disease, and the community is threatened with violence from people longing to destroy Nauvoo and the emerging Mormon church. With the western exodus of the faith imminent, she faces a decision that runs counter to her soul and all she holds sacred—whether to become Brigham Young’s plural wife.
Naamah’s interaction with “the Lion of the Lord,” Brigham Young, unfolds as a unique love story. She first beholds him on a Peterborough stage where she is awestruck. In Nauvoo their paths cross several times, and they work together at the Temple for countless hours as the community prepares to exit Nauvoo. Brigham’s marriage proposal and Naamah’s deliberations are skillfully written. In the end, the various events in Naamah’s life come together in a way which enables her to say 'yes'.
Though not a Mormon, Mr. Woollacott’s handling of Joseph Smith’s teachings and the events surrounding the early history of the Mormon church is impressive. The major characters are well drawn and believable. The book poses moral questions, and documents a strange and rather disturbing love story.
Mr. Woollacott’s easy-to-read style moves the reader along in an entertaining fashion which makes The Believers in the Crucible Nauvoo a novel you won’t want to miss.