Book Synopsis & Prologue
One hundred fifty-three years after his grandmother walked from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, towing a handcart and her six fatherless children, Doc Cleland follows her very footsteps, pulling his own handcart and recreating her trek.
In Faith Greater Than Pain, Sarah Goode Marshall’s story anchors Doc’s modern-day-journey, as both protagonists wend their way toward Zion. Exhaustion, poor nutrition, terrifying storms, savages and death plague Sarah’s company, while Doc experiences physical ailments that land him in a hospital, near-constant mental struggles, and eventually, great spiritual gratification.
Join Sarah as she discovers the faith that is true for her, withstands the abuse her husband piles upon her, and finally leaves her home in England to answer the call to Zion. Her husband, who dies after mishandling an attempt to poison Sarah, lies buried in English soil while her siblings chastise her for daring to consider leaving their homeland; neither is enough to stop Sarah from following her heart.
Doc, who has lost his home and livelihood to our nation’s economic downturn, his wife to Lou Gehrig’s disease, and three of his five children to paths that stray far from his LDS roots, engages the reader with his gritty determination to understand his grandmother’s path. His encounters along the way expand his experience to an understanding of humanity, in its many and varied forms.
A prologue follows.
Faith Greater Than Pain
Thunder booms, shaking the air.
The entire sky lights up, and I am rocked from sleep by either the noise, the light, or the water running into my tent, I’m not sure which. The rain beats a heavy and constant rhythm on the canvas above, and I scoot around trying to tighten the ties on my tent flaps. A pointless activity, I decide, as the rain is determined to find any path in that it can. Water follows the path of least resistance, I tell myself, wondering why it is that I can’t seem to do the same. Not on this trek, and clearly, not in life. Another bolt lights the world, and a clap of thunder follows. Pulling out my Boy Scout trick, I count the seconds between the two and I get no further than one, two, leading me to shiver a little more violently than I had before. Man, I am close to this thing. I count my way through five more sets, eyes wide, brain scrambling from placating reassurances to dire death warnings and back.
The next flash and crack are closer to three seconds apart, and I relax a bit. It’s not my time. I’m not meant to go this way, struck by lightning in the proverbial Iowa cornfield. I continue counting seconds between flashes and crashing booms, and they remain at least three or four seconds apart, gradually stretching further and further from each other until I can barely manage connecting the sets. I roll over, ignoring the damp, and listen to my mind telling me that soon I’ll have to get up and pull my handcart through this stuff. I groan; the world lights up again. I pull Bessie, my terrier, closer to me and feel her trembling body calm. I’m lucky I have her, grateful for the company. Sarah slept out here, not alone either. She had six children snugged up against her, probably cowering underneath a canvas tent at times, listening to thunder rumble and smash just as I’m doing.
I’m barely six days into this trek, and there’s not a part of me that doesn’t ache. Did she ache? Was every muscle in her body tired and weary? Besides my throbbing muscles, my thinking parts seem terribly susceptible to fear and apprehension, and they plain old don’t like lightning storms. Was she fearful? How did she survive the aching body and treacherous mind? And how on this green earth will I survive another three months of this?
Sarah stays in my mind, feisty thing she must have been, and I think of her tenacity and fortitude as I readjust myself on the wet canvas floor. No sheep for me; I count rows of corn, I count wagon wheels, I count the years that separate Sarah’s life from mine, I count the traits she possessed that I hope to discover within the depths of my own being. Dawn will be here before long, I know, and I’ll have to pack up and start walking again. The rain continues to pound the canvas surrounding me, and I finally will myself to sleep, which only partially works, and not for a long, long time.
Doc, June 15, 2009
Book Review (Deseret News, Feb. 3, 2013)
“Faith Greater Than Pain,” co-authored by Lynn “Doc” Cleland and Susan Imhoff Bird, leaves the reader captivated by the beautifully crafted imagery and heartwarming tale of two souls separated by time, but connected in spirit.
The book guides the reader through two legacies, the first that of Sarah Goode Marshall, an early Mormon pioneer convert, and the second that of her great-grandson, Cleland.
The story of Sarah Goode Marshall leaves the reader in awe and respectful as they learn her conversion story. Sarah proves her humble heart and stalwart convictions to her newfound faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After the death of her husband, she receives inspiration to take her six children to America and travel to Zion (the Salt Lake Valley) by handcart. The biography relates her tale, her struggles and her triumphs along the way. The reader cannot help but ache for her when she goes through struggles and cheer at her successes, especially when she reaches the Salt Lake Valley.
While reading Cleland’s tale, it feels like the reader is walking alongside him as a friend, pulling the handcart with him. His story of traveling over 1,400 miles on nearly the same trek as his great-grandmother in remembrance of her, is remarkable. Doc provides hope by showing there are still genuine and kind-hearted people left in this world. He also reminds the reader that there are still a few sour-lemons out there as well.
His personal journey doesn’t begin in Iowa City or end in the Salt Lake Valley. As Cleland relates his tale, his life, and allows the reader a glimpse into his soul, the reader comes to realize this is a journey that he has been prepared to accomplish throughout his life. This journey is a legacy he also leaves for his posterity to remember and cherish; a legacy alongside that of his great-grandmother.
Although Cleland begins his travels wanting to remember his great-grandmother and began this excursion as a spiritual journey and growth for himself, in the end he finds himself accomplishing something much larger than he imagined. Readers cannot help but feel they, too, have been changed by the trials, struggles, and hardships both Sarah and Doc passed through. One cannot help but want to be a better person for his or her own posterity and family after reading “Faith Greater Than Pain.”
(Reviewer) Micah Klug graduated with her bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She currently resides in Rexburg, Idaho with her husband and daughter.