Book Review: “The Messenger”

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Title: The Messenger
Author: Siri Mitchell
Publisher: Bethany House
Date: Mar 2012
ISBN: 978-0764207969
Genre: Historical Quaker Romance
Reviewed by: Holly Weiss

Philadelphia, in 1778, is under British occupation. A Quaker woman weeps for her brother, suffering in a British jail. A Colonial spy courts British officers in his tavern.

In The Messenger, a woman and a man from two walks of life team up to aid American military prisoners in a British jail.

Quaker Hannah Sunderland feels the numbing cold, hunger, and filth her twin, Robert, suffers in the Walnut Street prison. Will Hannah go against the Quaker Meeting’s warning to have nothing to do with “this ungodly conflict” to aid her brother? Tavern owner Jeremiah Jones is out for revenge for all the English and Tories had taken from him. Will he be able to rescue men needed for the Patriot cause from the jail?

Siri Mitchell’s fascination with female revolutionary war spies began at age eight. Her novel enlightens us regarding the Revolutionary War period and different viewpoints of war. She puts a magnifying glass to Quaker beliefs and the conditions of wartime jails. Read the Author’s Note for additional insights into the historical background, including the real reason Washington’s troops at Valley Forge starved the winter of 1777-78.

Chapters smoothly alternate between the first person accounts of Hannah and Jeremiah Jones. Their relationship pulses with complications. Mitchell is particularly adept at describing what goes on in Jones’s head. This reader longed for more development of Hannah’s twin, Robert, who abandoned his faith to fight for freedom. Nevertheless, the plot is vivid and abiding. Other potent tidbits:

• Methods of prison escape
• English jailors bribing starving Patriot prisoners to take up arms for Britain
• Spies practicing passing secret messages and goods without detection
• The plight of slaves in the north in 1778

The publishing industry evidently shies away from books set in Revolutionary times. The inclusion of spy and Quaker elements in The Messenger tipped the industry’s scales, giving us a thought provoking and entertaining read. The book forces us to determine in what situations spying is acceptable or admirable. Faced with the dilemma, would you choose a cause in which you believe strongly or your faith?

Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont

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