Friday, February 15, 2013

The Wind and the Waves by Dean Hughes

The Wind and the Waves by Dean Hughes
"Will Lewis is stuck. the class system in England in the 1840s seems destined to keep him in his place as a poor tenant farmer who cannot improve his lot and will never be able to marry the woman he loves. But the "new religion" that is sweeping through congregations of the United Brethren, Will's church, may hold the key to the better life he longs for. As he listens to the preaching of Wilford Woodruff, he almost dares to hope for the Zion the young Apostle describes.
Will's struggles to believe and to face the rigors of immigrating to an unknown land are paralleled by the modern-day story of Jeff and Abby, a young married couple facing challenges of their own. When Jeff begins digging into his family history, he finds himself particularly drawn to "Grandpa Lewis," an ancestor whose life was more like his than he would have imagined.The skillful interweaving of these two stories brings Church history to life while demonstrating how much we can learn from those who went before us. Anyone who has ever faced the winds and the waves, in some form, will love this novel."
I know there are a ton of church history novels that are set in England and whose main plot center around conversion and traveling to Zion. Yet, this story was fleshed out so well, and gave an amount of detail about the life and opportunities of tenant farmers  that I found myself immerse in the historical narrative and the road blocks that it put solidly in the  main characters path. Indeed, I also loved how patiently Will had to wait for the Lord to answer his prayers. I loved how even when he did set out to Zion he wondered if he was making a mistake.  The characters felt so human as they dealt with their trials and struggled with their faith. 

The story lines about Jeff and Abby however did not impress me as much. Their situation was not ideal, but they never had to struggle hard for a backup plan. Their shelter was provided by parents or by an acquaintance who offered to let them live in their house when they were on a mission. So, while their situation was not what they planned and slightly uncomfortable, they did not experience the type of highs and lows that were in the parallel historical storyline.  This made their story feel weak in comparison to Will's experiences. Though, I loved the idea of them connecting to their family history to find strength and reassurance at a difficult time.

Overall, despite the fact that Jeff’s storyline wasn’t as strong as their historical counterparts I still really enjoyed this novel and was really touched by the themes and character experiences explored in the book. I think Hughes did an excellent job crafting this story and portraying both the heights of faith and struggles of mortality.

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