Bethany Blog Tour: “The Messenger” by Siri Mitchell

WHEN BELIEFS CLASH WITH WHAT’S RIGHT

Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith … until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah’s world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Friends believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. She is not allowed to visit him, even if she were able to secure a pass.  Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers?

Jeremiah Jones, a Colonial spy, needs access to the jail to help rescue men important to the cause.  Upon meeting Hannah, a plan begins to develop.  Who would suspect a pious Quaker visiting a loved one?

But Jeremiah is unprepared for Hannah, for her determination to do right, to not lie.  How can one be a spy and not lie?  Hannah, in turn is surprised by Jeremiah … for the way he forces her to confront her own beliefs, for the sensitivity and concern that he shows her despite the wounds he still carries. Agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith.

Bio:  Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a speaker and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.

Her tenth novel, The Messenger follows prior Bethany House releases: A Constant Heart, Love’s Pursuit, She Walks in Beauty , and  A Heart Most Worthy.

She Walks in Beauty won the inaugural INSPY Award for Historical Fiction in Dec 2010. Three of Siri’s novels, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door, and She Walks in Beauty were Christy Award finalists. Love’s Pursuit was a finalist for the ACFW Carol Award.

Endorsement:

Publishers Weekly proclaimed, “Mitchell delivers the historical goods.”

Go HERE for more a Q & A with Siri, plus more information on Quakers, spies, colonial life, and the Revolutionary War.

My Review:

January, 1778.  Philadelphia under British Occupation.

Step back into history without all of our modern conveniences of telephone, internet,  i-phones, e-mail, etc., and consider how the Patriots are going to contact one another in regards to the British Occupation.   The only possibility is spying.  This is the story Siri Mitchell presents to us in The Messenger. Stranger still, it includes a commitment between a young Quaker woman and a surly, injured Colonial spy.

Major patriots and Hannah Sunderland’s twin brother, Robert, are in jail for insurrection to the King.  Jeremiah Jones becomes the necessary spy to contact a particular patriot in prison in order to help them escape.  His most unlikely help is young Hannah, as she wants to visit and bring comfort to her brother under the brutal conditions, including little or no food, little clothing, no blankets, disease, winter, and broken windows.  Who would suspect a Quaker woman for spying?

The story is written in two points of view–that of Jeremiah and that of Hannah and their interactions with others and each other.  We are privy to their thoughts, feelings, and circumstances.  It brings about cohesiveness in the storyline through the eyes of the two parties involved in the spying rendezvous.

Siri does an excellent job of portraying the believable conversations and the frustrations that evolve from spying, as well as Hannah’s interactions with her parents, family and people of the Meeting.  The difficulty of Hannah’s family having to move to their aunt and uncle’s place after the British took over their house made the circumstances much more complex and interesting.

The descriptions of the rat-infested jail made for a very real experience, particularly when compared to today’s jails.  It more or less reminded me of dirty farm buildings with cattle enclosed for the winter.  And even that is mild compared to the prisons back then.

The commitment of Jeremiah and Hannah made for excellent reading.  The issue of Hannah’s determination not to lie makes for an interesting predicament.  One could almost see Jeremiah pulling his hair out in frustration!  Yet, that was what he had to work with in regards to Hannah.

As in the caption, “In a time of war, can two unlikely heroes find the courage to act?”  Pick up Siri’s book and find out what courage was expended by both parties and the realities of living during the Revolutionary War in 1778.  Additional information is included at the end of the book about that time that corroborates the truths of this story.

Siri’s book is a great read for all who love historical fiction–interesting historical facts along with the entertainment of a well-written book.  Although ‘entertainment’ is a difficult word to use when one reads of the prisons, however.   But it was the reality of the times.

This book was provided by Noelle Buss of Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was exchanged.

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