Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace by Jody Hedlund

Heidi Reads... Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace by Jody Hedlund

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found 

Now remembered as the author of the world's most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father until the night he hears Polly Catlett's enchanting voice, caroling. He's immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John's reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

My Review

Previous to reading this book I was only vaguely familiar with the story of John Newton, gleaned from the movie Amazing Grace in which he is a minor character. It made me more fully appreciate the powerful simplicity of the hymn, so I was thrilled when I learned that one of my favorite authors was writing a book about the love of his life and her role in his transformation.

I thoroughly enjoyed their early romance, but had an underlying feeling of trepidation, knowing that John would be somehow reduced to the most humbling of circumstances. The characters and setting are depicted so vividly that I was instantly drawn to Polly's devout sweetness and John as the charming rogue. There is a stark contrast in how they interact with their family members that foreshadows their future paths. Polly is respectful and compliant, while John kicks against the opportunities that his father lines up for him. There are harsh realities of life to be dealt with and accepted, and the more John fights against them the more trouble he gets himself into, but always finds someone else to blame. I admired that Polly stalwartly continues with her life even though she longs for the chance to receive more education and wonders what God has in store for her.

The times are turbulent with dangerous smugglers threatening the townspeople who don't look the other way, press gangs abducting men to serve in the navy to fight the war with France, and abolitionists pursuing the unpopular cause of freedom for slaves. Suspense is woven throughout the story as John and Polly's relationship strengthens each time their paths briefly cross, just to be pulled apart as John faces the serious consequences to his reckless decisions. His flaws and dark experiences are realistically portrayed, as well as his yearnings for a better life with Polly and struggles with accepting the God his beloved mother was devoted to.

Along with the powerful themes of forgiveness and grace, I loved that Polly's father exhibited unwavering integrity in his career and taught his children by example. He reminded me of my own father with his gentle and loving manner. Despite their difficulties with each other, John's father proved to his son his unconditional love over time and his relationship with John could be seen as a metaphor for the attributes of justice and mercy of God. John's transformation brings a sense of light and hope to the remainder of the story as it becomes Polly's turn to make a momentous decision that will affect her and John's futures. Highly recommend!!!

(Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah and the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Giveaway Opportunity 

Participate in #MyAmazingGraceMoment for a chance to win one of three copies the publisher is giving away!

Newton and Polly Giveaway from Waterbrook Multnomah

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