Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell

Siri Mitchell’s work is often featured here because I think (nay… I KNOW) she is one of the strongest historical voices in the CBA.  One such reason for commending her is her wide range. Unlike many authors of her ilk, she stretches boundaries by playing with narrative voice and writing well-researched books about a variety of time periods.  She is clever, intelligent, writes inspiring heroines dealt interesting hands in a myriad of historical eras and fills her prose with acute verisimilitude which reads in a flawless, effortless manner.

Here, Mitchell’s canvas is the conflicts embedded in the Revolutionary War.  Philadelphia: from its higher society to its low tavern world is peppered with spy rings, mystery, heart-pulsing tension, and cloaked faith even while humanity pits against each other.  The Messenger is divided between the voices and perspectives of young Quaker woman Hannah Sunderland and Colonial spy Jeremiah Jones. Hannah, desperate to aid her rebel twin brother during imprisonment is forced to live outside of her usually rigid and conservative realm.  Jeremiah, knows he needs the guise of Hannah’s innocence to help permeate the prison walls; but is initially unsure if this strict young woman is up to task.  Both Hannah and Jeremiah will have to test their own wills, trust in each other and step outside of their comfort zones to achieve their mutual purpose.

There is a love story in the novel; but it takes back-burner to the well-wrought tension at the forefront. Indeed, Mitchell  does well at plotting and propelling action forward simultaneously developing her characters and their growing attachment in stride.  There is a palpable sense of dramatic irony felt from the first few pages for the anticipating reader; but Hannah and Jeremiah remain realistic unsure of their growing dependence on each other.  Thus, their relationship is meted out slowly and in a believable manner.

I read somewhere ( perhaps on the thread Siri Mitchell contributed to on the Bethany House facebook page) that Revolutionary History was is not deemed overly popular in the CBA: I, however, was fascinated by this unique setting and immediately want more.  It made me want to revisit the beautiful HBO John Adams film and re-read more about our American neighbours and their hard-fought forge toward independence.  I  appreciated Mitchell’s inherent grasp of Quaker traditions: including the “thees” and “thous” implanted in dialect.  This put me in mind of Alice Henderson in Catherine Marshall’s Christy and allowed me to readily establish a narrative constant in my head when reading Hannah’s version of the story.

I also very much enjoyed the unbreakable bond between Hannah and her twin brother. I had often heard that twins can experience the misfortune of one another and that indelible invisible thread that forces Hannah to risk all to save her beloved brother was quite moving.

There is an adamant and abundant theme of grace and trusting; yet, none of the characters are “sickeningly” Christian.  In fact, Mitchell excels at penning heroes and heroines tested by faith and plagued by the doubts that withstand any time period.  None of her heroines are perfect; yet all strive to live up to the metrics of their conscience: which is all that one can ask given the frustratingly blurred line between dark and light so apparent during this time in history.

A few Siri Mitchell review from the backlogs:

I received this review copy from Graf Martin Communications on behalf of Baker Publishing Group.


Unknown said...

Oh well said! :)

Siri Mitchell said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed my book, Rachel! Thanks for taking the time to write and post such a thoughtful review.

Happy reading,