Strangers and Sojourners

Strangers and Sojourners

Plague Journal got under my skin, especially the first part. It’s prophecies are too much like reading the news and it triggered all those dark thoughts that hound parents in the small hours of the morning. By contrast, its precursor, Strangers and Sojourners was a much more calming novel. Perhaps part of that is that I already knew how it would end and thus there wasn’t that dreadful anticipation. But I also think the book itself has a different mood. In fact, last night as I finished the penultimate section just before going to sleep, I was filled with a great sense of peace and tranquility, an almost supernatural sense of well-being that came not from an absence of trouble but from an absence of worry and a lack of fear. The primary mood of the book is one of acceptance and trust in a Divine order. No, more than that, in a divine Lover who will heal all ills and make all things new.

Strangers and Sojourners is a multi-generational epic and flits in and out of many characters’ points of view. But the backbone of the novel and the primary lens through which we view the action is Anne Delaney, wife of Stephen, mother of Ashley, Emily and Bryan, grandmother of Nathaniel and many other grandchildren who only figure in the story as a collective presence. The novel follows Anne’s journey from her native England to the wilds of British Columbia where she meets and marries the Irishman, Stephen, also an exile. But the real journey is the pilgrimage of her soul. Anne’s unlikely marriage is the crucible in which the rational atheist Anne discovers not an irrational faith but a faith which requires her to take a leap of faith beyond the merely reasonable.

I loved the character of Anne, a writer, a rebel, a strong woman who faces emptiness and despair and breaks and breaks and breaks until she has no choice but to depend on the divine surgeon to fill the void. I loved her ability to face her own brokenness and the emptiness and the silence and to move forward into the darkness with hope.

I loved this novel. I want to turn back and read it all over again just to catch everything I missed as I flew through to the end. Even more, I’m dying to get my hands on the next book in the series. I may have to even break down and buy it and I very rarely buy new books.

My comments on other books in the series:

Plague Journal

A Cry of Stone

and another thought on Strangers and Sojourners

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  • As a convert, it hit me really hard when I visited the Metropolitan in NYC and saw all their beautiful sacred art sitting in their vast halls.  This art should be sitting in our churches, participating in our worship to our Lord.  This is what the artist intended and the sadness of this loss was palpable.  The only consolation is that perhaps an atheist may be moved to venture in the church the art was taken from   Who knows?

  • I’ve been trying to recall a particular moment when that sadness of the loss, as you say hit me and I’ve just got it: Florence, San Marco convent, the monastery where Beato Angelico lived and painted, now a museum. Touring through the monastic cells, each decorated with an original fresco, seeing the art in place, having a sense of the monks in their cells in prayer before that beautiful art, I understood the art in a way I never had from pictures in a book. And especially seeing the annunciation and realizing that the arcade Mary sits in is the arcade of the monastery’s cloister. The annunciation happened here it says.

    And then the contrast as you enter the refectory, I think it was, which is now a gallery with a bunch of his framed art hung. These pieces were beautiful but so obviously wrenched from their proper context. And having seen the frescos in their context, the contrast was really stark. I could feel how the museum setting, the neat descriptive tags, drained the pieces somehow of their real purpose as devotional objects and made them merely an aesthetic experience. As you said, a palpable sense of loss.