Carol Award: Debut Author Finalist: The Preacher’s Bride
Title: The Preacher’s Bride
Author: Jody Hedlund
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group (Dave Long and Sharon Asmus, Editors)
Category: Debut Author
Reviewed by: Patricia Woodside
The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund fictionalizes the lives of Christian stalwart, John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, and his second wife, Elizabeth. In Hedlund’s tale, Bunyan is portrayed as John Costin, an itinerant preacher and tinker, father to four young children. When his first wife dies, Costin realizes he needs help raising the children in order to continue preaching the Gospel.
In Hedlund’s story, the characters leap off the page.
Elizabeth Whitbread, committed to serving God—and nearly committed to marry another man—agrees to assist John temporarily in his home. As the duration of her housekeeping stint lengthens, Elizabeth and John’s feelings toward one another evolve and deepen.
John is persecuted because of his preaching. The violence directed at him eventually hits home as Elizabeth and the children also suffer. John must decide how high a price he is willing to pay to preach the Gospel, an act against the edicts of the Royalists and the Anglican Church.
Hedlund has crafted a moving story about the time when the Puritans fought fiercely for religious freedom in England. Borrowing from real life, The Preacher’s Bride illuminates a period in history which fueled the founding of America and strengthened the Protestant church worldwide.
In Hedlund’s story, the characters leap off the page, inviting readers to share in their joys, disappointments, and suffering. The depth of Hedlund’s research shines through, but does not overtake the story.
Unfamiliar with the details of Bunyan’s real story, I found the plot twists completely surprising and realistic. I also enjoyed the development of the relationship between John and Elizabeth. Hedlund skillfully captures the emotion of a blossoming love constrained by strict, unemotional rules for behavior.
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