Title: Feathers of Hope
Author: Sharon Garlough Brown
Series: Sequel to Shades of Light and Remember Me
Major Themes: Retirement, Healing, Forgiveness
Synopsis: As Katherine Rhodes prepares to retire, New Hope Retreat Center searches for a new spiritual director.
I’ve enjoyed Sharon Garlough Brown’s books for quite a while now, so when I saw Feathers of Hope come up, I jumped at the chance to read it. I didn’t enjoy her last book that I read—An Extra Mile—quite as much as some of her others, but I felt sure that this one would be better. Well…I’m not sure it is, but I don’t feel like it’s fair to say it’s worse, either. There was so much to love in the story, despite some aspects that disappointed me.
Wren Crawford has worked through a lot of her trauma from last year, but she still feels like she’s barely hanging on in her grief over her best friend’s death. There are too many unresolved questions for her still, and until she can find some closure there, she’s not sure she can move on. Meanwhile, Katherine Rhodes, director of the New Hope Retreat Center, is ready to retire. Ministry and life have taken a lot out of her, and she’s ready to hand the reins on to someone with a fresh vision to take the ministry forward. Sarah Kersten, Katherine’s daughter, is still struggling to figure out how to relate to and bless both her mother and her stepmother. After her brother’s suicide, father’s affair, and parent’s divorce when she was 18, she’s done what she can to have good relationships with everyone. With New Hope’s future looking quite different, and the individual struggles of these three women, can they find grace and healing for their individual as well as their corporate journeys?
As I said at the head of the review, there was a lot to love in Feathers of Hope. I loved the way Wren approached life—she had a lot of struggles, but she fought to keep from letting those things drag her down. She’s also a highly creative person, and watching the way creativity transformed her life and helped her work through different griefs was a blessing. She was a fighter, and I loved that. I also appreciated Katherine’s determination to keep a clean slate before the Lord—and her consistency in naming and confessing sin whenever it came up. That was a challenge to me in my walk with the Lord.
There was a good amount I wasn’t comfortable with in this book, though, and I’m not sure what to think about some of it. Katherine has a “holding cross”, to help her pray when she doesn’t know what to say, which, as Mom pointed out when she read Barefoot, can be more of a fetish than a Godly tool. Another big thing in this book, which is mentioned frequently, is using paintings (specifically, van Gogh’s paintings) as a springboard for meditation and prayer. Again, there may be nothing wrong with that…but it came across as somewhat New Agey to me, especially since there was very little (if any) Scripture meditation mentioned. It’s not wrong to allow the Lord to use physical things around us to bring attention to truths we need to learn. But when Scripture is surpassed by works of men when we’re seeking to go deeper into truth and have a closer connection with God, I feel like the lines defining right and wrong can get pretty murky. Another topic in this book that didn’t sit completely well with me is racial justice. There’s a lot that could be said on the subject, and a lot that I believe ought to be said. Here, it felt like a reaction to the times in which it was written, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m not sure I agree with all the conclusions that were arrived at in these pages. I’ll leave that up to the discerning reader; just be aware that that is a topic in this book.
In conclusion, I think Feathers of Hope is a good book, but some of the things mentioned in the last paragraph dragged it down for me. I did find it harder to get through than any of the other books I’ve read by Brown, and part of that is because I had just finished a particularly favorite read when I started this one—so nothing would have seemed to measure up to the same standard for a while. This had the potential to be a great book, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
I was given a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: See the second-last paragraph. Crap is used in ch. 2, 26, and 34; sworn is used in ch. 3, 6, and 12; “good grief” is used in ch. 4; blast is used in ch. 5; cursed is used in ch. 10 and 16; cussed is used in ch. 10; swear is used in ch. 21, 25, and 34; “oh my word” is used in ch. 23; gawd is used in ch. 25; darn is used in ch. 26; confounded is used in ch. 28; “my God” is used in ch. 28, 31, and 34; “like hell” is used in ch. 34; and goodness is used in ch. 36. People lie in ch. 21. Characters drink wine several times. Affairs are referred to several times, and “the sex talk” is mentioned in ch. 14. Someone has a panic attack in ch. 16. There are references to someone who committed suicide or overdosed several times—ch. 17, 31, and 35, and one character has a history of depression. A woman pastor is mentioned several times.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults