Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy by Penelope Wilcock

Having recently finished reading to my kids a children's version of the Chaucer Tales, I was intrigued about the 14th century setting for portions of the The Hawk and the Dove trilogy.  Similar to Chaucer's Tales, the first two books in this trilogy include stories within a story. Melissa is a modern day teenager in England who faces the normal struggles of most teens: fitting in, dealing with siblings, not caring for school. Throughout Wilcock's first two books, Melissa's mother shares short stories about the monks at St. Alcuin's Abbey.

As Melissa faces trials in the modern day, she finds surprising comfort and guidance from stories passed down from generations past about monastic living.  I never anticipated learning so many wonderful lessons from the past illuminating human frailty and the joy that can be found in the midst of struggles.

Most of the stories feature the abbot at St. Alcuin. The respect and loyalty he has earned have been hard won through suffering. As he guided new novitiates, I was struck with how much I learned about leadership and the importance of truly loving others who are just starting their faith journey. I was under the impression that monks ate, slept and chanted but had not realized how much work was involved in the running of the abbey. The reader gets a fascinating view of practices of farming, medicine, church politics, and even church discipline during the middle ages.

What amazed me the most was how very little human nature has changed over time. Petty annoyances were as hard to bear then as they are now.  Human leaders and followers with their own weaknesses (harshness, carelessness, temptation) had to daily lay down those weaknesses, often seeking forgiveness for wrongs done--either intentionally or unintentionally.

The vignettes dealt with universal struggles that any reader can identify with:  feelings of worth, bearing unjust treatment, loving the unlovely, yielding your rights to another, and learning to forgive unreservedly.  The reader will see the rough edges of characters softened with the grace and wisdom of a godly abbot.

In the third book of the trilogy, Melissa and her mother are left in the present day and the reader is immersed in life at St. Alcuin. The abbot faces a trial of unimaginable proportions and his assistant, Brother Thomas, has difficulty coping. The abbot has been like a father to him but Thomas must go through a valley of his own before he can cope with this new crisis facing his beloved abbot.

Words cannot adequately express how much these stories moved me. The stories were like a mirror reflecting my own weaknesses and each interaction with the abbot was a poignant glimpse at the heart and character of God.  The abbot's wisdom was forged in the fire of trial and the reader will not soon forget the amazing love he poured out upon others.

The first trilogy in this series includes The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God, and The Long Fall. These books as well as three additional books are all available at the Kregel Publications website.  Read an excerpt from The Hawk and the Dove and be drawn into life at St. Alcuin's. You may never be the same again.

Disclaimer: I received The Hawk and the Dove trilogy for the purpose of review from Kregel Publications. No other compensation was received.

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