(Whitney Finalist, historical)
The first chapter of Gale Sears' Belonging to Heaven sucked me in immediately--I loved the detailed historical perspective on 19th century Hawaiian culture. After that, however, the book began to slow for me a little. The story follows roughly Jonathan Napela's conversion to the Mormon church and George Q. Cannon's early missionary efforts on the island. Both stories are interesting and deserve telling--but sometimes I felt that Sears told *too* much. I didn't need detailed conversations about every event in the story. As interesting as the historical element was, the book felt long and at times I was tempted to skim. The last portion of the book is one of the most interesting, as it describes Jonathan's retreat to a leper colony to be with his wife (his refusal to leave her is especially touching).