A friend purchased The Messenger for me and it took me a while to get around to reading it, but I have to say, I was impressed. Perhaps it was the setting, my setting that is. I read this Revolutionary War era novel while sitting in a rocking chair in front of a great stone fireplace in a rustic cabin over the course of two days. You might say my own setting prepared me to connect with such a book.
The novel follows the story of Hannah Sunderland, a young Quaker girl trying to live a life of peace amid patriots and loyalists in Philadelphia during the heart of the Revolutionary War. When her twin brother is jailed as a rebel, Hannah must choose between the faith of her people and love for her brother. Meanwhile, local tavern owner Jeremiah Jones finds himself unexpectedly organizing a jail break for imprisoned patriots, but he can’t do it alone–in fact, he can’t do it without the help of young Hannah Sunderland herself.
Honestly, not much really happens in this book–the plot isn’t exactly riveting and there is little action. The pace is slow and steady, but it is the characters and the setting itself that carry this novel through. And it was just that that kept me coming back to read a little more and a little more.
Hannah is far from just a Quaker–she is a young woman finding her way in the world, exploring her own independence, realizing that she must form and hold onto her own beliefs about God. She must begin to make her own judgements about her actions and her acquaintances rather than relying on her church to make them. I loved that this novel neither demonized nor glorified the Quaker religion, instead, through Hannah, Mitchell explores both the positives and negatives of such a faith. I loved Hannah’s complex character.
Even as I finished the novel, I was left with a distinct desire for more of the Colonial/Revolutionary War period. So I was inspired to finally pick up a book that had been on my to-read list since high school–Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography–and I dove right in. I think that any historical fiction novel that inspires the reader to learn more about history is a success.
In the acknowledgments at the end of The Messenger, Mitchell writes that “it is a commonly held belief in the publishing industry that Revolutionary War-era novels don’t sell”. I, for one, am glad that this book was published and would certainly recommend it to any history-loving fiction fans.
I received no compensation for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.