Title: Worth Dying For
Author: Nicholas Stoltzfus
Major Themes: Christian Life, Waldensians
Synopsis: A Waldensian family lives out their motto: A faith not worth dying for is not worth living for.
My memories of Worth Dying For go back a long way. If I’m remembering correctly, my parents borrowed this book from a friend when I was fairly young, probably around 7 or 8. I was an early, avid reader, so I read it as well as them. Some 10 or 15 years later, when I had a small Christian bookstore, I tracked down the company who was then publishing this older book, and began carrying it in my store. Of course, I reread it at that time. I remember noticing then that it seemed like a story of modern Amish life set in 1199! Now, I’ve read it for a third time, this time aloud to my children. While we very much enjoyed this exciting tale, we did notice that it does not seem historically accurate.
Worth Dying For is a story of the Waldensians. Perry Fleming and his family are the central in the story; when we first meet them, Perry is in the army, albeit unwillingly, as he is conscientiously opposed to war. His wife and children are at home, getting by the best way they can. Soon after Perry comes home from the war, the pope passes an edict that all Waldensians must either recant or be killed and all their property confiscated. All 50 families chose to immediately leave the area and flee over the mountains, even though it was winter and would be very dangerous.
This book is a good introduction to the beliefs of the Waldensians, followers of Peter Waldo, a rich merchant who gave up everything when he was converted. You will always remember what the Waldensians stood for after reading this story, and it will inspire you in your Christian life. However, as a historical story, it has some major flaws. The lifestyle portrayed in this story, as I said before, is not the way I believe life would have been in 12th century Italy. It seems more like modern-day Amish or Mennonite life. Also, we noticed something that many other authors have also gotten wrong; potatoes are mentioned as a staple food. In reality, as far as I know, they were not introduced to Europe until after the Spanish conquest of Peru, several hundred years later! Despite these flaws, however, Worth Dying For is an exciting story of faith and courage. A frequent quote throughout the story sums up the Waldensian’s attitudes very well: “A faith not worth dying for is not worth living for.”
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults