(I didn’t get this book done in time for a Tues or Thurs review last week, so you’ll get two reviews this week! Stay tuned for Praying with the Grain on Thursday.)
In history books we read much about the horrible winter of 1777-1778 when so many colonial soldiers at Valley Forge suffered and starved because of a lack of food and supplies. But with all of the focus on Valley Forge itself, we rarely read or hear much about other things that were going on in the colonies that same winter.
Author Siri Mitchell uses her talents as a fiction writer to give us just a glimpse of other events that transpired that winter. The Messenger is the story of a young Quaker woman whose twin brother has abandoned the faith of his family to join the colonial militia and fight against the tyranny that has enveloped their world. Hannah’s love for her brother catches her up in a life she never would have imagined – the deceptive life of a spy. But, it also opens her eyes to horrors that her beloved people refuse to see as well as an understanding of God she might never have known otherwise.
The Messenger reveals some of the aspects of the Revolutionary War that are frequently left unconsidered.
- Readers see what the British truly thought of colonials, even Loyalists. They were lesser citizens simply because of their place of birth.
- Quakers are among the primary characters of The Messenger. As a result, the more intricate implications of their pacifism is explored.
- Although we know that prisoners of war are never treated well, it is easy to gloss over the details. The Messenger reveals the horrible, fatal conditions of the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia as well as the tragic reality that citizens did not bother to go visit, check on, or care for their loved ones imprisoned there. Many of the tragic deaths were the direct result of that lack of care.
If you’ve read many of my fiction reviews, you know I love history. So, obviously I was greatly drawn to the historical content of this book. But, I also love the way the author used late 18th century vocabulary even in the narration of The Messenger rather than only in the direct address. Such language helped draw me as a reader into the time period. It also grew my own vocabulary a bit!
I do wish the author had worked her historical note in differently. Historical information concerning both the Society of Friends (Quakers) and that specific winter during the Revolution are included at the end of the novel. But, I have seen historical fiction authors begin with a preface or introductory chapter incorporating historical information before diving into the story itself. Then at the end, the author adds another note that distinguishes fact from fiction. I think that sort of format would have been perfect for The Messenger and would definitely have enhanced by reading experience.
Beyond that one improvement, I would have only one request of the author. Can we have a sequel? Siri Mitchell has definitely been added to my list of favorite historical fiction authors!
Meanwhile, if The Messenger sounds interesting to you, you’re in luck! I have a giveaway copy ready to mail. Just leave a comment between now and Wednesday, May 30 for your chance to win that copy!
This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.