I met Debra Terry Hulet this summer during an author event at our nearby Kuna, Idaho library. She has an amazing story and if you ever get a chance, you need to go meet her! Her debut novel, Independence Rock, is somewhat unusual in Mormon Fiction because it deals with touchy subjects that are often glossed over in feel-good, faith-promoting literature. The protaganist, Katie McBride has an abusive, alcoholic mother and an absent father. Kudos to Debra for starting out with such a tough situation!

Although Katie’s ancestors were Mormon, Katie is not. So, when she is offered the chance to go on a handcart trek instead of be locked up in juvenile detention, Katie embarks on a difficult journey towards healing and understanding. I was excited to receive a review copy of Debra’s book, and I must say once I started reading it, I devoured it. Katie’s handcart trek is interwoven with the handcart trek of her ancestor, Katherine, whose journal Katie finds under the floorboards in her bedroom the night before she leaves. As Katie reads journal entries along the way, Katie and Katherine draw closer to one another despite the divide of years. When Katie faces a crisis she can’t see past, Katherine is able to help Katie in a very unusual way.

This is a great read for all youth, and it would especially be a great prep-book for youth groups planning on a handcart trek adventure. It’s made me want to go check out Independence Rock for myself. A big thank you goes to Debra for a great book and visit. I look forward to seeing more of Debra’s books in the future.

Want more handcart resources? Check out www.carenslaser.com for some awesome mini handcarts. If you want to plan a trek, or learn more about handcart treks, check out http://handcart-trek.org/. Don’t forget to check out 17 Miracles, this wonderful (tear-jerker) movie is about handcart pioneers and the many miracles they witnessed along the road to Zion.