When Silence Sings
by Sarah Loudin Thomas
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date November 5, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Clean Romance
Setting: West Virginia Great Depression - US - 1929-1939
Written for: Adults
Colman Harpe works for the C&O in the Appalachian rail town of Thurmond, West Virginia, but he'd rather be a preacher and lead his own congregation. When a member of the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin and the clan matriarch, Serepta McLean, taunts the Harpes by coming to a tent revival in their territory, Colman chooses peace over seeking revenge with the rest of his family.
Colman, known for an unnaturally keen sense of hearing, is shocked when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans. A failed attempt to run away leaves Colman sick and suffering in the last place he wanted to be--McLean territory. Nursed by herbalist Ivy Gordon--a woman whose birthmark has made her an outcast--he's hindered in his calling by Serepta's iron grip on the region and his uncle's desire to break that grip. But appearances can be deceiving, and he soon learns that the face of evil doesn't look like he expected.
I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers, Netgalley for giving me this copy of the book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
Have you ever looked at pictures from the Great Depression era? You know that feeling, that sense of melancholy you get? Almost a stillness, a solemn view of life, and a sense of resignation with just a tinge of hope. Sarah Loudin Thomas takes these same emotions and turns them into prose in a poignant manner in When Silence Sings.
This amazing story pulled me right into the mountains of West Virginia amid a feud that started a century earlier. Where folks lived in conditions we would be appalled at and yet thought nothing of it. Where poverty was so much a part of life it wasn’t even a thing.
The speech of the characters and the narration were rich with the idiosyncrasies and colorful flavor of Appalachian families without feeling overdone.
The conflict between the McLeans and the Harpes was so ingrained into the fabric of the characters, even Colman, who desired to be a preacher and knew the Word of God well, didn’t find it strange or wrong for the feud to exist. He despised and feared the McLeans. In fact, I was set to not like him much when I first observed his thoughts and actions. Then I realized that this was a retelling of the story of Jonah. All of a sudden, my entire perspective changed and I saw how masterfully the author communicated the type of reluctance Jonah would have felt when told to go preach to the sworn enemy of his people!
Perhaps it is my love of stories; nevertheless, I was captivated by the way Colman preached. Not by creating deep treatises on theological teachings but through the simple stories of the Bible, made more relevant and real to his audience. In a community where education was rare, there wasn’t a much better way to reach their hearts!
I was intrigued by the way the issues of prejudice were brought into the story. Not only was there the prejudice of the families towards each other and prejudice against a man of African-American descent, one of the characters lacked pigmentation in her skin and was feared by the people for that.
While there is a hint of romance, this is not a romantic story. It deals with deep heart matters such as hatred, unforgiveness, and pride. And shows the power of God to transform hearts and minds. The ending is satisfying but does not neatly wrap up all the loose ends, much like real life.
This is my first full-length novel by Sarah Loudin Thomas and I hope it is not the last! She is now on the list of authors I really enjoy!
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