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"The Hardest Thing to Do" by Penelope Wilcock

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"The Hardest Thing to Do" by Penelope Wilcock

Post by fljustice » Thu August 18th, 2011, 7:49 pm

From the back:

"The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation."

"Christian Fiction" is a tricky label and I have not read widely in it. Ten years ago, I read a book by andinterviewed Jan Karon who wrote the hugely popular Mitford series. Although they feature Father Tim, an Episcopal priest, the stories are about everyday life in a small town. Most people can relate to the problems, foibles, and dilemmas she writes about. Religion is there, but it's in the background; faith is an element of personality. I read a historical novel Stones of My Accusers by Tracy Groot several years ago. Moody Publishers stated as their mission:"...to equip and motivate people to advance the cause of Christ by publishing evangelical Christian literature..." That book was remarkably free of "evangelical" language. Jesus was treated as a real person and the "resurrection" viewed with skepticism by the main characters. In fact, I didn't even recognize it as "Christian Fiction" until I read the publisher's mission.

The Hardest Thing to Do is a different book altogether: an outright, unapologetic panegyric to Christian beliefs and religious lifestyle. That doesn't make it a bad book. I actually enjoyed the quiet contemplative nature of the writing, the insight into a religious community and the obvious research that went into the book. I very much appreciated the major themes of forgiveness and "why can't we all just get along?" I would even go so far as to recommend that the publisher send copies to all the so-called Christians in the US Congress, in hopes that they might learn a few lessons in charity and social responsibility, but I'm not holding my breath. :rolleyes:

But in the end, the central conflict of the story didn't work for me. The Hardest Thing to Do didn't seem all that hard. The "enemy" the good brothers had to deal with was defeated when he showed up at their door: his house burned, his flock scattered, his body and spirit injured. It didn't seem much of a leap to apply a little Christian charity. If a raider had come through and burned them out, killing their brethren, etc., and they truly forgave him; I might have been more impressed. But the book is what it is: a quiet, uplifting, devotional story. Some people might want and need just that; others might want a little more spice.

I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through the Early Reader program at LibraryThing. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The details:

The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock
Crossway Books, July 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-2655-7
ISBN-10: 1-4335-2655-7
255 pages; $12.99
Last edited by fljustice on Thu August 18th, 2011, 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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