Friday, February 19, 2016

Siri Mitchell's "The Messenger" - pacifism in the American Revolution

When Hannah Sunderland's twin brother, after rejecting the pacifist stance of the Quakers and joining the revolting colonists, is captured and thrown into prison, Hannah wants desperately to help him, but her faith forbids it. Jeremiah Jones, a colonial spy, needs to get someone into the prison to smuggle notes while arranging a jailbreak, and Hannah is his only option, if he can convince her to disobey the Quakers' ruling on not getting involved. As they come to a truce, Jeremiah is frustrated with Hannah's refusal to tell a lie--what kind of spy only tells the unvarnished truth? And Hannah finds her faith challenged by the bitter man helping her. As the danger increases, will they find the courage to do what is right?
Cover Art
It was interesting to see the pacifistic side of the Revolutionary War - neither for nor against, but washing their hands of it all. I can see why they'd be loved by neither side. The story brings up several tough subjects, such as at what point does not doing something hold you culpable? Violence may be wrong, but ignoring injustice is too. 

The story ended a little abruptly; I wouldn't have minded a bit more closure on . . . most everything. Even a two-page epilogue would have helped settle it more.  But it was definitely interesting to read about a spy who not only follows the letter of telling the truth, but the spirit too. No deception for her!

I liked learning more about the Quaker Society of Friends. Some things, like their historical stance on not ministering to the prisoners of war, I didn't agree with. But I enjoyed the depictions of the Meetings, and how the Friends staunchly believed in listening to the Holy Spirit.  It's tastefully portrayed, though that aspect of the book feels radical, being outside of mainstream Christianity today. Radical, but not to be dismissed.

There are novels about the Revolutionary War that I have liked more, but this one is still well worth the read, especially given its unique perspective.

On a similar vein, I'd also recommend:
Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund, about the oppression and life leading up to the Revolution, while people were still choosing sides (which explores moral themes not unlike The Messenger)
Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White, about spies operating in New York City
The Colonel's Daughter by Laura Frantz, about the war on the Kentucky frontier

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