On and off through the years, I've seen people recommend Penelope Wilcock's "The Hawk and the Dove" series. I had it in the back of my mind to try them, and never got around to it. Now, thanks to Lion Hudson Publishing, I've been able to encounter these stories in fresh reprint editions.
At first, the books sound rather obscure. Vignettes from a 14th century Benedictine monastery? Wasn't that the Dark Ages? Were people back then even human? Didn't monks live such tiny lives? What could they have to say to me?
Oh, there's so many reasons to read these books.
Read them for the fine writing that turns these little tales into magic doors that transport you to another world.
Read them for the way they'll absorb you utterly, and the way you'll crave the next chapter, and the way they'll feed your heart.
Read them for their deceptive simplicity, because while they're stories of particular people and place- the brothers of St. Alcuin's- they're somehow about you and I too.
Read them for Brothers Tom and Cormac and Francis and Theodore. Enjoy the delightful camaraderie of young men all trying to understand their vocations and conform their lives to the pattern of simple service. There are antics and escapades and growth in goodness aplenty among these novices!
Read them for Brothers Andrew and Matthew and Edward, older men who took their vows long ago and still find themselves learning God's ways.
Read them for Father Peregrine, the abbot who leads them all, with justice and distance at first, and eventually with a true shepherd's merciful hand.
These men may belong to the 1300s, but the human heart still breaks and mends in the same old ways.
Father Peregrine feels real enough to step off the pages. His "strength" and his "weakness" are both laid bare for us- humility and pride, gentleness and severity, prayer and tears- and we see him become the Wounded Healer, a man who can bless others because he owns his brokenness and offers it falteringly to God. He's not a stained-glass saint, lovely as those are. He's a laughing, working, struggling man who "does Christianity" in a beautiful way.
And I'd be remiss not to mention Melissa and her family as well.
In the first two books of this series, each monastery story is grounded in a scene between fifteen year old Melissa and her mother. Melissa's wise mother understands the best way to guide and guard her daughter's growing spirit is to give her stories, and these accounts of Father Peregrine are their distant family history. We see Melissa and Mary and Beth and Cecily and Therese- the five daughters- going about their days, with Melissa eager for the next story that Mother will tell. You may find yourself craving a cup of tea as you read.
I hope somehow I've conveyed a bit of the winsome, heart-easing, encouraging nature of this book. Begin with "The Hawk and the Dove," and be prepared to go find the next book, and the next.
Thank you Kregel and Lion Hudson for proving me with a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
"My aim in writing is to make goodness attractive. I love simple human kindness and gentleness, and I am moved by human vulnerability. I am fascinated by the power that is within our grasp to lift one another up, to heal and strengthen and encourage each other - our power to bless.
In the novels I write, I think of the reader sitting down to enjoy a book, the door of their imagination open wide to allow the story in to influence and shape their spirit. I accept the responsibility that confers as a great privilege, and it is my intention that when you put down any book of mine at the end of reading it, you will feel hopeful, peaceful and comforted, more ready to look on your fellow human beings with compassion and see their point of view.
I live in the English town on Hastings, on East Sussex's south coast. I write a blog called Kindred of the Quiet Way.
I would like to encourage you who are reading this to take the trouble to review on Amazon the books you read - as a reader I find customer reviews immensely helpful in making up my mind whether to purchase a book, and as a writer I find readers' reviews so valuable as feedback and food for thought."