Monday, October 19, 2015

The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock

This novel is the fourth in The Hawk and the Dove series. It is a little different than the others in that it goes day by day through the season of Lent.

Lent is the time of taking away comforts. Yet, for Brother Conradus, the hardest thing was remembering to do all he had been told and asked to do. For Brother Cormac, the hardest thing to do was break the fast after Holy Week.

For Brother Tom, the hardest thing to do was forget past injustices and be willing to show grace to an enemy. This difficult task comes to the forefront when John returns to the abbey. He'd been away to Cambridge for a year of training to be the abbot. Upon his return, prior William arrives, destitute and in need of a place to stay. While John wants to show grace, Tom cannot forget the injustice William showed to Father Peregrine.

This novel is a good study in character. I loved how John, on his journey back to the abbey, gave away all his food and money. He is a giving and humble man. He is uncomfortable when he is shown deference because he is the abbot elect. He learns that nearby St. Dunstan's had burned and most of the monks, detested by the community, had died in the fire. Not prior William, however.

The good character traits of the monks at St. Alcuin's Abbey are tested when prior William asks for residence. Many know this William and do not like him at all. While John wants to show grace, the monks are adverse to having such a horrible man in their abbey. Is William a man who should be shown mercy or is he really a wolf in sheep's clothing?

I enjoyed this novel. I continued to learn about abbey life, this time specifically about Lent and what meager food they ate. I was also faced with some good spiritual lessons. One was illustrated by Brother Tom. He has a quick temper and must frequently ask for forgiveness. “...Brother Tom wondered how other people managed – ordinary people outside the monastery walls who tried to muddle along without this discipline of humble contrition to heal the wounds made by human carelessness.” (118) That reminded me of how infrequently at church we are reminded of our sins and are given opportunity to repent, even silently.

There are other lessons too, such as trying to see a situation from another's viewpoint before being so quick to pass judgment. And then there is forgiveness. Do we forgive past hurts, unconditionally, even when the mean person has not repented or asked for forgiveness?

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction. You'll learn a great deal about how an abbey functioned during the fourteenth century. You'll also meet godly men who struggle to follow the rule of St. Benedict as they follow Christ.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: The Hawk and the Dove
The Wounds of God, and The Long Fall.

Penelope Wilcock is a full-time writer and a former Methodist minister, prison and hospice chaplain, who lives in Hastings on England's south coast with her family. You can follow her blog at

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U. S. by Kregel), 256 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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