Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell. Bethany House, 2012 369p. (9780764207969)

It took me a while to pick this book up, but once I started reading it I didn’t want to put it down. Since my mom reads my blog I won’t tell you how late (ok, ok, early) it was when I finished it. ;-) 

I love history and the American Revolutionary War is one of my favorite periods to read about. I think this is the first novel I’ve read about life in Philadelphia during the winter of 1777-1778 when the British were quartered there while Washington and his men froze at Valley Forge. It’s a good story with lots of interesting dynamics. 

After her twin brother joins the Continental army and is captured, Hannah Sunderland reluctantly becomes The Messenger between the imprisoned soldiers and a Continental spy living in Philadelphia. Hannah and her family are Friends, Quakers. As pacifists they opposed the war and refused to take sides which put Hannah between a rock and a hard place.

To the Sunderland family Robert, Hannah’s twin, is essentially an outcast. When word comes that he is in a prison in the town neither parent tries to go see him and no one enquires after his well being. No one, except Hannah. Even though the British declared a no visitor policy she still hopes to see her brother.

Enter Jeremiah Jones, tavern owner, Continental spy, and veteran of the French and Indian War. He is angry at God, angry at the Quakers (for opposing that war), angry at the British because he was overlooked by the doctors and lost his arm, and he is angry at Lieutenant John Lindley. 

Using his former friendship with John Lindley, now an officer in General Howe’s headquarters, Jeremiah is able to secure a pass for Hannah to visit her brother and other prisoners. In exchange for the pass Hannah agrees to carry messages to and from the jail – messages about an escape planned for the spring. 

Only problem is all the prisoners are starving, sick and too weak to dig the escape tunnel. Not to mention that once they finally do start digging they can’t know for sure if they are headed straight towards their destination. They’ll need all the help that Hannah and Jeremiah, two very unlikely allies, can provide if they are to succeed. 

There are so many interesting dynamics to this story. As a Quaker Hannah struggles with aiding her brother and the other prisoners, in doing so she is going against her parents, her friends, her church and its elders. Jeremiah is bitter and angry but he still shows compassion. Hannah's family moves in with her aunt and uncle who own slaves - something the Quakers are strongly against.

The author's character collage found on her Pinterest board.
I really enjoyed this story and was pleased to find out that it is based loosely on a true event. The author includes several pages of historical notes at the end which clarifies which parts of the story are true and which parts are fiction. 

There are two things in the story that didn’t quite make sense. One was the Sunderland’s rejection of their son and also their daughter. The second was the anger and hatred Jeremiah had for John. The book has Jeremiah calling John his greatest enemy but throughout the story Jeremiah seems to be on friendly terms.

The characters are fun and for the most part well developed, the historical parts are well researched, and the story engaging. All in all a great read. 

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.


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