The Merlin of St. Gilles' Well is wonderful!...It's the best book I've read in months and months; a terrific premise, and so beautifully imagined and described, I can only gnash my teeth in envy...Every word is-literally-magic, evoking another world, an older time-and the echoes of the Old Ways that live on in us, unseen.
-Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series
CLOGS AND SHAWLS
Chamberlin interviewed her grandmother and six of her surviving great-aunts for Clogs and Shawls, the relatives who had made their way to Mormon Zion. She weaves novelistic passages with their first-person narratives to create a singular work of oral immigrant family history that is both lively and enlightening.
In this revealing family memoir, best-selling author Ann Chamberlin explores the history of her Mormon grandmother Frances Lyda and her seven sisters who grew up desperately poor in Bradford, Yorkshire, in the early years of the twentieth century. Chamberlin’s narrative follows these eight daughters of Mary Jane Jones and Ralph Robinson Whitaker, a remarkably gifted yet poor and blind piano tuner. Most of the girls were forced by necessity to abandon school at age twelve and find work in terrible conditions at a local factory. When their mother converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1901, she became the backbone of the Mormon community in Yorkshire. Her daughters followed their mother into her faith, while navigating their own, sometimes tragic, ways into adulthood, family, and the world beyond industrial England. Though they were exploited and undereducated, the girls maintained a steadfast belief in a brighter future for the Mormon faithful, a mindset that, despite their many differences, forged an unshakable togetherness between them. All gifted and strong individuals in their own right, many of the Whitaker sisters overcame long odds and incredible hardships to carry on and prosper in Salt Lake City.
CLOGS AND SHAWLS has won the following prizes:
Association of Mormon Letters
Best Audiobook 2020 -- narrated by Jacqueline de Boer
Mormon History Assocation--BEST PERSONAL HISTORY/MEMOIR AWARD
Praise and Reviews:
"Rich and informative, Chamberlin is a really gifted writer who gives the reader vivid insights into the social history of the time and place where these women lived while at the same time bringing them and their family members to life in such a way one can almost smell the blood and sweat.”
—Kerry William Bate, author of the award-winning memoir The Women: A Family Story
“Chamberlin’s confident way of writing, her skillful use of dialect, conversation, and the wonderful and vibrant way she describes her relatives makes these individuals come alive. The book rings with the sound of authentic experiences by common folk who were extraordinarily interesting.”
—Martha Bradley-Evans, author of The Four Zinas: Mothers and Daughters on the Frontier
“Ann Chamberlin has written a Yorkshire hymn of poignance and grace amidst all odds. Her book is a tracing of the ins and outs of family—its strengths and failures, its defects and amazing resilience—and serves as a testimony to the power of lineage.”
—Phyllis Barber, author of To the Mountain: One Mormon Woman's Search for Spirit
"I'm here, lamb."
For two days and nights without sleeping, she'd sat by her son lying in the master bedroom with a coal fire constant in the grate. She answered his every whimper with these words. In the kitchen below, her husband's shirts sat in cold bluing. What Mr. Whitaker did for his dinner, she had no idea. She herself ate nothing.
But here, now, was her son. The fever had passed, the bandages came away clean. His voice--his bright voice sounded much as she remembered it.
Her heart turned to ice.
"But Mammy, I can't see you."
The left eye was whole, but infection had spread beneath the freckled nose. It turned cloudy. Before the picture was back from the photographer's--the picture with the bright little boy at the shadowy woman's knee--he was blind.