Excerpt from Lightning Tree by Sarah Dunster


Sarah Dunster’s historical novel Lightning Tree is due for release on April 10, 2012 from Cedar Fort.   To see a book trailer for Lightning Tree, click here. If you’d like to visit Cedar Fort’s poster page for the novel, click here.   Also, Sarah has put together a blog tour for her book.   One of her stops has been A Motley Vision, where she did a fascinating interview.   To read the interview, go here.


€œYou all right? €

Henry’s voice startled Maggie. She had almost forgotten he was there.

€œFine. € Maggie folded the letter up and put it in her pocket. €œI’ve got to go. €

€œYou sure you’re all right? You know, Maggie €”that part about the sisters in Pleasant Green €” €

€œI’m fine, € Maggie snapped. She shrugged his hand off her shoulder.

€œMaggie, I don’t think you are. Maggie, let us help you! €

€œI don’t need help, € Maggie muttered. €œThere’s nothing you can do anyway, Henry. € She walked out the door into the snow. She felt oddly empty. It was good, because she knew she ought to be feeling a lot worse. Maybe if she just kept on going, kept her feet moving, she wouldn’t have to feel it. Like hypothermia, if she just kept moving, maybe she would survive.

She made her way up snowy streets, off to the side to let others pass. She felt the soft brush of the snowbanks against her skirts.

At the edge of the town blocks, the cold began to seep into her, making her bones throb. She stood there a moment, looking out on the wide, white expanse of the empty fields east of town. She sat, suddenly, in the snow, with her back up against a fence post.

She gazed up at the mountains. Squaw Peak had always looked, to Maggie, like it had been created for the express purpose of jumping. It’s a giant jump-off point, jutting out over the valley so that you could fall thousands of feet without hitting anything. Maybe it even gave you enough time to lose all your senses, before that final, terrible crash into the earth.

With their blue color and caps of snow which trailed in lacy white lines down their sides, Maggie could almost imagine they were giant waves, big enough to reach her
there on the edge of the fields. She could almost sense a little bit of motion. They were slowly coming for her. They would take her, and sweep her up, up, up, over their tops and fold her inside of them, and she wouldn’t have to think or feel anymore.

Maggie stood then. She couldn’t feel her legs, but she didn’t need to feel them. She could still walk, and so she did. It gave her a tiny edge of pleasure to wade through the snow, to break a new path in all the soft whiteness.

At first she thought she would just wade over to the edge of the mountain and begin to walk up it, and get as far as she could, but her feet took her in another direction. The last of the Chaberts. Giovanna is an Alden now. Because I can’t take care of her. The thought brought the first edge of pain, and then it overwhelmed her. She stumbled and nearly fell as it descended on her like the giant mountain-waves she had been imagining, crashing over her and covering her in blackness. She kept moving, only because she suddenly had the fierce, aching desire to visit Noémie.

We’re the two last Chaberts. The two who can still be together. Who aren’t buried on the plain, or in Great Salt Lake City. We can be together, at least. Me and Noémie. We were the last two pieces that made a family, and so we can at least be together. The riverbank was a lot higher up if you tried to find it east of town, so Maggie circled up around the north side of the fort; the newer one that touched the northern edge of the town’s walls.

This is my real home, Maggie thought as she came through the homestead door.

This is the last place my family was.


Lightning Tree Author Sarah DunsterSarah Dunster is the mother of six young children. Her childhood journals are littered with poems, stories, and drawings of maps, characters, and places she imagined for her stories. She wrote her first novel at age nine – a rambling combination of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, scribbled on binder paper – and tortured her friends by making them listen to the whole thing. Sarah is an award-winning poet; her pieces have been published in Segullah Magazine and Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought. In addition to writing she loves reading, singing, skiing, and educating her children at home. Sarah lived for ten years in Provo, and grew to love the places, people, and history of Utah Valley.