I think it took exactly three weeks for one of the kids to ask. “Mom, why do the Lutherans sing such morbid, dreary songs?”
It sounds so disrespectful now, but it wasn’t. The question came sincere and seeking to understand… with just a hint of frustration under it.
Look, you can’t blame the kid. We’d come from a rich a capella tradition with both mournful and lively tunes. Sure, we’d occasionally sung “Night with Ebon Pinion,” but not often. We were used to singing things like, “Our God Is Alive” and “Revive Us Again.” Those don’t even include the obvious… “Sing and Be Happy!” After that, singing… again… something that sounded like a dirge and repeated in every way possible what vile worms we are did get, and still does, a little old.
I’m pretty sure that most of what I said was utter nonsense.
I pointed out that despite the terrible tunes and seemingly one-track theme, the songs were rich in theology, and if they’d grown up with them, they’d probably have strong affection for them.
My guess is that one kid out of eight agreed—the one who eventually married that Lutheran pastor’s son. 😉
Later conversations turned the question to books. Why do we love tragic books and movies so much? Many of them are full of sin, sorrow, and secrets. What about them would appeal to Christians?
I’ve been on the hunt for the answer to that for a long time. Yes, I’ve had a pretty good idea of it, but once I find an answer to things… I try to prove me wrong. It’s just one of my peculiarities.
Well, after reading a book last night, I think I’ve proven my posit. Can one do that? You can posit a question, so can you prove that posit? I’m going to say yes. If not, don’t tell me. I like my delusions. Still, now that I sit down to review the book, my brain can’t stop churning.
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Why Do Christians Love Books about Sin and Sorrow?
Midnight on the River Grey should read like one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Sin, sorrow, secrets combine into a plot that I absolutely couldn’t put down. To avoid TMI, I’ll just say that I didn’t put it down… even when perhaps I should have.
This was my second book by Abigail Wilson and it will not be my last. Not by a long shot. If the character of Rebecca hadn’t first caught my attention, her “voice” would have. She comes alive on the page of a novel written in first-person, and I didn’t even care.
Yes, I noticed it. Usually, that’s an issue. It wasn’t this time. In fact, I believe the book is better for it.
You won’t see me admit that often.
But if that hadn’t caught me and gripped me, the opening lines of chapter three definitely did.
Years of history and neglect had left a steady hush throughout Greybourne Hall. Almost as if the soul of the house had left it long ago and what remained was a hollow shell. From the cobweb-decorated parlor to the abandoned chapel, a transient gloom roamed the halls, leaving my body yearning for warmth.”
Wilson can write… and write well. We become immersed in Regency England and Greybourne Hall from the first page of Midnight on the River Grey. She does it with judicious use of almost lyrical description, careful attention to characterization, and a deliciously layered plot that tastes better with every bite.
Yes, I went there with a food metaphor. I’ve been unable to eat for forty-hours and food is calling my name.
The biggest objection I have to this book is that I didn’t see a faith element shown in a book published by a Christian publisher and by a Christian author. The Book of Common Prayer is mentioned–as a place for something hidden. And forgiveness is offered freely after grave sin. But I don’t read Christian fiction only because it doesn’t have sex or foul language. I read it for my faith to be encouraged. I had to dig to find it here… and it was all under deep layers.
Still, I loved it.
Not only did Abigail Wilson write a compelling story with every element perfectly placed, but she did it so subtly and delicately that I didn’t realize how phenomenal the book was until I started dissecting it for this review. Every choice she made in point of view, characterization, plot, twists, writing style—all of it is affected by the others.
It’s my contention that she did every bit of it with careful deliberation. And that it’s brilliant. Oh, so brilliant.
And all in a plot full of sin, secrets, sorrow, and oh, so much ugliness.
Why do we like this? Why would we want to read about what we so wish to avoid in life? Better still, why do we “enjoy” these things as “entertainment”—these things Jesus died for?
I have two answers for that. It took a while to figure out why I wasn’t satisfied with my original one. You see, it was incomplete.
I first thought, “Because it helps us see our own sin for the ugliness it is. It helps us understand all we’ve been saved from because we’re able to disassociate ourselves from it a bit.”
I still believe those things, but even more, I think what I discovered tonight is true. Why do Christians love books about sin and sorrow? I think the answer is less satisfying than I first assumed. The answer, I think is…
We don’t like any of that. What we do like is that once all that ugliness has played out on the page, something beautiful happens—a weak, pathetic imitation of what happens in real life.
See, the author takes all that ugliness and gives it meaning. Well, in a good book anyway. We see why the horrors had to happen and justice on the other side of it. Sometimes we see mercy and forgiveness.
In short, we see a shadow of the beautiful thing The Author of life does with His “characters” in their “stories.”
And Abigail Wilson’s Midnight on the River Grey is one of the best examples I’ve seen of that in a long time. When I requested a free review copy of the book, I didn’t know what to expect. Lately, I’ve been disappointed in quite a few books I’d really been looking forward to. I picked it up with a bit of trepidation, but it just plopped on my best of 2019 list without a second thought—and even with a few things that I don’t think are quite accurate. She made me not care.
Midnight on the River Grey is on tour with Celebrate Lit
Author: Abigail Wilson
Genre: Historical Romance/Mystery
Release date: July 2, 2019
Abigail Wilson returns to Regency England with another tale of murder, mystery, and romance.
After her elder brother’s mysterious death, Rebecca Hunter vows to expose the man she believes responsible-Mr. Lewis Browning-known by the locals as the Midnight Devil and by Rebecca as her new guardian. He alone was on the bridge that fateful night and openly admits striking her brother with his horse, but he claims he remembers little else.
Summoned to his reclusive country estate to await her London season, Rebecca plans her own secret investigation. Yet, Lewis Browning is not as she once imagined, and his motivation is horribly unclear. Recurrent nightmares and Rebecca’s restless feelings are further complicated by the shadow of her mother’s prior descent into madness and whether she too will follow the same heartbreaking path.
Even as midnight rides, strange injuries, and further murders lead back to Lewis, Rebecca can’t ignore the subtle turn of her heart. Has she developed feelings for the man she swore to see hanged? And moreover, can she trust him with her uncertain future?
About the Author
Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart.
A Registered Nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the National Parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastics meets, and curling up with a great book.
In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children. Connect with Abigail at www.acwilsonbooks.com
An excerpt from Midnight on the River Grey
My heartbeat turned sluggish as an ache swelled in the back of my throat. This man—the
person responsible for my brother’s death—expected me to live with him? In his house? Madness.
“And if we refuse?”
“I’m afraid there is little choice in the matter at this point. The arrangements are already complete.”
Mr. Browning narrowed his blue eyes, scrutinizing me, no doubt, as the numbing shock of his declaration faded to resignation across my face. He sighed. “I do realize Greybourne Hall might hold unfortunate associations for you—”
“Unfortunate?” My voice came out a bit louder than I’d expected. “Is that what you choose to call it?”
He gave a sideways glance at Aunt Jo then returned to me, a pained look hovering about his eyes.
His voice, however, remained firm. “Forgive me if I startled you. I hadn’t expected such a violent reaction to what I assumed was the logical next step. Perhaps I should make myself a bit clearer.” He gave a curt sigh. “I only intend for you to stay at Greybourne Hall till someplace more suitable can be arranged. Unfortunately, there are few options at present.”
Ice enveloped my heart. I had no wish to travel to, let alone live at that dreadful house, not even for a single night. In his letters, Jacob had described the rambling structure as a gray pile of stones fit for vampires, or worse. I could only image Mr. Browning, this dark-headed devil before me, at home in such a place.
Fiction Aficionado, July 11
All-of-a-kind Mom, July 11
The Power of Words, July 11
Emily Yager, July 12
Blogging With Carol , July 12
Stories By Gina, July 12
Just the Write Escape, July 13
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, July 13
Simple Harvest Reads, July 14 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
For Him and My Family, July 14
Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, July 15
Wishful Endings, July 15
Godly Book Reviews, July 15
Texas Book-aholic, July 16
Retrospective Spines, July 16
Seasons of Opportunities, July 17
For the Love of Literature, July 17
Mary Hake, July 17
Genesis 5020, July 18
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, July 18
Bigreadersite, July 18
Blessed & Bookish, July 19
Through the Fire Blogs, July 19
Blossoms and Blessings, July 19
Tell Tale Book Reviews, July 20
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 20
Remembrancy, July 20
Inspiration Clothesline, July 21
Locks, Hooks and Books, July 21
Pause for Tales, July 21
A Reader’s Brain, July 22
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 22
Inklings and notions, July 22
Hallie Reads, July 23
A Good Book and Cup of Tea, July 23
janicesbookreviews, July 23
A Baker’s Perspective, July 24
Ashley’s Bookshelf, July 24
To celebrate her tour, Abigail is giving away a grand prize of a copy of her book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.