German-born Bridge Lake resident Helga Zeiner has long been an author of mysteries written in German and published in Germany, but all have been based in places where she has lived, mostly Alberta and Hong Kong.
Zeiner’s most recent publication, however, is written in English. Section 132 is the fictional story of a 13-year-old American girl who is smuggled into Canada to become the bride of the bishop of a Mormon off-shoot sect.
The words “Section 132” refer to the Book of Mormon where polygamy, the principle of having several wives, is delineated.
Some five years ago, Zeiner heard about British Columbia’s community of Bountiful in the Kootenays, where a fundamentalist Mormon sect has been practising polygamy for decades. She simply did not believe it.
“I was shocked. My initial reaction was ‘no way, this couldn’t happen in B.C.’ But when I found out it was true, the writer in me took over and I thought it would make a wonderful background for a novel.
“Most people I spoke to were not even aware of Bountiful’s existence. Now, the book is causing quite a stir. I placed the story into the wilderness of B.C., north of Blue River.”
Describing the sect’s practices as physical, mental and emotional damage inflicted by senior members, Zeiner finds it “deeply disturbing that such abuse has been able to flourish unchecked for so long.”
When the book was published in August, Zeiner could not have expected it to be highlighted by America’s recent sentencing of the sect’s prophet Warren Jeffs.
In September, Zeiner was invited by the “Bountiful Round Table,” the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian University Women, to speak to West Coast LEAF’s (Legal Education and Action Fund) annual general meeting on: “An end to exploitation: three perspectives on the polygamy reference.”
Co-chair Maureen Johnston introduced Zeiner: “[Zeiner’s] book is fiction, but based on facts and has been extensively researched. It may assist in raising public awareness of what is going on in Bountiful.”
Section 132 makes rewarding and unnerving reading, regardless of whether the reader had previously heard of Bountiful. Zeiner says she is deeply hopeful that a novel’s wider audience will indeed create public pressure to effect change.
She will hold a book-signing at Nuthatch Books in 100 Mile House on Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.