The cover photographs alone are almost worth the price of Sanpete Scenes. They are extraordinarily beautiful and at the same time represent symbolic images that effectively set the tone for the entire volume. On the front cover is an autumn scene in Spring City, the gem of gems among Mormon villages. The foreground is composed of richly colored maple leaves above a shaggy carpet of roadside grass and weeds. Through the leaves, the weathered boards of a barnyard gate are visible, and beyond that the roofline of a pioneer adobe house, and farther still the graceful steeple of the Spring City LDS chapel silhouetted against the sky. It is a remarkable composition that captures the essence of the Mormon village: its oasis quality; the beautiful and durable (yet constantly endangered) historic houses and public buildings; and the rich accumulation of clutter that tells of lives lived and things valued. The back cover offers a montage of representative scenes: a sensitive shot of the Manti Temple, perhaps the most beautiful and surely the most strikingly situated building in Utah; the winding road up Maple Canyon; and the sun rising over the ridges of the Wasatch Plateau on a herd of sheep with sheepherder. These photographs make a fitting introduction to a book that exemplifies, as the authors put it in the preface, “the art of reading landscapes and interpreting them graphically.”
Both Peterson and Bennion are competent geographers, and their book, though aimed at a wide audience, reflects solid scholarship in its treatment of the elements of place. The goal, however, is breadth rather than depth. The book is made up of seven chapters divided into forty-four topical subchapters, most of which are only one or two pages long.