Title: A Holy Passion
Author: Alicia G. Ruggieri
Major Themes: Historical Fiction, Christian History, Romance
Synopsis: When David Brainerd comes to the Edward home for care in his illness, can Jerusha keep her heart and yet understand why David was willing to give up his life for Christ in the first place?
What was the last book you read that dealt with struggles young women face when it comes to relationships with guys? I’m sure most females have read at least one book that touches on the topic—either non-fiction, or fiction. There are some very good stories out there that talk about it. One of my most recent favorites, that will likely land at the top of my 2018 book list, is A Holy Passion. And before you start getting ideas about this being an uber-gushy romance: it isn’t. As much as I almost longed for it to be one, it’s so much better because it isn’t. This book blew me away, and I cannot wait to get my own paperback copy to stick on my shelf. It’s that good!
Jerusha Edwards, daughter of the famous Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards, has known and loved the Lord from a young age. However, she’s also known many other preachers and missionaries—and the one that has snagged her eye is one she’ll likely never have the chance to get to know personally. Although David Brainerd communicates with her father, he is a missionary to the Indians—and has a much more important job than thinking about a possible romantic side to life. When Mr. Brainerd gets deathly sick, Jerusha is determined to do her best to help heal him—and is equally determined to quench her feelings about him once and for all. Much to her irritation, her feelings continue to get in the way, but she begins to see what drives this man’s life. Is there something greater to this man than just his looks or accomplishments? Will God spare his life so he can continue his great work? What does God ask of her, especially when it pertains to her dreams and wishes?
“Oh, Lord God, may we never outlive our usefulness to Thee!” (David Brainerd)
I wish I could convey to you how much I loved this story. It met me at a time and place where I needed it, and not only challenged and inspired me, but gave me a brand new perspective on the Great Awakening.
“Those who speak of whether a sacrifice is necessary when God places the opportunity before us to do it for His glory, for His Name’s sake, know nothing of the love of Calvary.” (David Brainerd)
My favorite part was probably Jerusha’s struggle with her feelings. Not once did it ever feel like telling; each step of the way, we were shown how it was for her, and it was very realistic, too. She had normal highs and lows, victories and failings, and yet it never felt overdone or exaggerated. I’ve rarely ever seen that in other books that could deal with the same subjects. The pull on a woman’s emotions when it comes to a man she likes is a very unique thing, and when we know it should not be happening, it causes quite a conflict as we try to deal with it in a godly manner. Jerusha did try to keep her focus in the right place, but she didn’t always make it—and that’s what I loved. Through her struggle in trying to find answers, there are some beautiful truths pulled out. Like this quote:
“I wanted Mr. Brainerd’s love to be directed toward me, too, rather than God. I wanted his all-consuming passion to focus upon me. With no thought to Mr. Brainerd’s good or wishes, I aspired to be the focus of such a man’s affections. […] I have been selfish and self-centered in my supposed love for him. Utterly so.” (from chapter 10)
A close—very, very close—second to my favorite element of the book was the spiritual and historical setting. Ruggieri did an amazing job extrapolating from the resources she had to create a world that felt very realistic. The spiritual lessons brought out, mostly from David Brainerd’s life, were both succinct and challenging. His was a life lived in full devotion to God, and it’s humbling to see that level of commitment by another Christian. It really made me long for a deeper walk with Jesus, and I appreciated that.
“How far will I go for the Cross? What am I willing to give up? What am I truly willing to suffer?” (David Brainerd)
Historically speaking, although it was developed very well, there were a couple things I wondered at (whether they would have actually happened in real life or not), but the rest of the story balanced those out so well I hardly had time to consider it! Some readers might find it a little difficult, though. At one point, a single woman accompanies a single man on a multiple-day journey, and other times she is alone with him for extended periods of time. Like I said, I don’t know if that would have been permissible or something “done” back then, but I have my doubts.
In all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I would highly recommend it to any girls looking for a good historical fiction read, or wanting encouragement in their Christian lives.
I requested a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: As mentioned before, around chapter 6, an unmarried girl travels with an unmarried man, although there is mention made that they were to find respectable houses to stay in, and nothing wrong happened while they were together. Also, at different times, David Brainerd’s sickness is mentioned with him coughing up blood.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults