Review

The Hardest Thing to Do: The Hawk and the Dove, Book 4

by Penelope Wilcock

What is “the hardest thing to do”? Each of the brothers of St. Alcuin priory has a different answer to the question, until evil personified steps through their door seeking refuge. Will they be able to overcome their human nature and trust God enough to extend grace to one so undeserving? The newly installed Abbot John knows his fellow monks will have to search deep inside themselves to find the answer --- an answer he hopes will be born of mercy, not justice. For the world may see the brothers as men of peace, but they are men all the same, complete with the fears, resentment and baggage born of human nature.

"This beautiful literary work draws you in like the current of a lazy river, flowing peacefully, drawing you back from the harshness of the real world, to the quiet, simple existence of St. Alcuin’s priory."

Abbot John has been a healer since he can remember. Taught first by his mother, then by others along the way, he embraced the art and science of mending others --- body and soul. Using God’s precious creation --- herbs, plants, salts, and all the earth has to offer --- along with a keen sense of observation, he cures and mends. Using God’s Word, compassion, encouragement, humility and forgiveness, he strengthens weary souls. When John is installed as Abbot of St. Alcuin, he questions whether he, a simple healer, is up to the job. He graciously accepts it, however, determined to honor God in his Abbot duties, knowing there will be challenges to face. But John never imagined a challenge like William.
 
Prior William is one of few survivors when his priory burns to the ground. Hated by the surrounding villagers, he and his brothers receive no assistance as their world goes up in flames. Those who survived roam the streets, burned, starving, scorned and fearing for their lives. Though William had done his best to make an enemy of St. Alcuin’s previous Abbot and even imprisoned one of their brothers, he has nowhere else to turn. When he asks for sanctuary from Abbot John, his request is put to a vote by the brothers. Will they see beyond his hardened heart? William knows it is a long shot, but something about St. Alcuin’s peaceful lifestyle gives him a whisper of hope.
 
This beautiful literary work draws you in like the current of a lazy river, flowing peacefully, drawing you back from the harshness of the real world, to the quiet, simple existence of St. Alcuin’s priory. Yes, there is conflict aplenty, soul-searching, arguments and accusations, but through it all, the quiet voice of God ebbs and flows between the lines. I can’t imagine that anyone would finish this novel unchanged. Its message of mercy and forgiveness weaves throughout each chapter like a lovely tapestry.
 
THE HARDEST THING TO DO is the fourth in the Hawk and the Dove series. Like the others, it comes to life with Monet-like imagery, realistic characters with relatable flaws and attributes, dialogue that engages your mind and often has you nod in agreement. Monks are nothing short of a mystery to most of us, yet author Penelope Wilcock, through research, talent and a gift that goes beyond skill, takes us into their world with her incredible series.
 

Reviewed by Susan Miura on November 10, 2011

The Hardest Thing to Do: The Hawk and the Dove, Book 4
by Penelope Wilcock