3 out of 4 stars
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Henry and Grace enjoyed a beautiful courtship. While they were dating, they took a photo of Henry in front of a statue called Serenity. As a married couple, they owned and ran a hotel until Grace became sick and died. When Henry was left alone to raise their five children, he had to make a difficult decision concerning his children's future. Could he give his sons and daughters what they needed? Would Social Services force him to place the children in foster care? The story follows the lives of the children and how their father's choices affected their lives.
Tom and Derek were the oldest of the boys. They both had clear, yet conflicting, memories of their mother and her final words. Each one's memory of her final message had a strong influence on their decisions later in life. When the author reached adulthood, she went through her father's things. She discovered her father's journals and his old photos, including the photo of Serenity. This iconic photo became an allegory of how Serenity had seen this family's birth, joys, and struggles. This trove of historical treasures helped the author understand her father and put her brothers' lives and choices in a new light.
At the Feet of Serenity by Eve Gwartney is a nonfiction book that recounts Henry Clayland's and his descendants' lives. The youngest of the five siblings narrated the family history with vivid descriptions and realistic dialogues. I enjoyed the author's analysis of how one choice made by their father touched so many lives. The author used her father's photo in front of the Serenity statue as the starting point for his family history and Serenity's influence on this family. The photos of Serenity through the years and those of the young family were a great addition to the text.
There were times when it was difficult to follow some jumps in the timeline. The author made a brief mention of her marriage and the birth of her children. After that, her children, Beth and Andy, only made brief appearances as secondary characters. I wondered if Serenity had any impact on Beth and Andy. I also found several grammar mistakes, which were mostly missing commas with only a few misspelled words.
The Clayman family belonged to the Mormon religion. The author included explanations of several main teachings of this religion. Readers will also read about the history of the church's founder, Joseph Smith, and how this group came to settle in Utah. A cousin invited one of the brothers to join a radical Mormon break-off group. The author detailed the events that motivated her beloved brother to join this cult and become one of their leaders.
I rate this book three out of four stars. The author wrote a compelling story detailing how the Serenity statue eavesdropped on a young couple in love and continued to influence Henry's choices through the years. This nonfiction story is a loving tribute to her family, which leads readers to reflect on the effect our actions can have on future generations. Sadly, I had to lower to score because of the number of errors I found in the text. Readers who enjoy memoirs and nonfiction books that follow family histories would enjoy this story. This book would appeal to people who study religions as the author has described several teachings of the Mormon Church. The book contains no profanity and no inappropriate scenes.
At the Feet of Serenity
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