Murray Pura in his new book, "The Face of Heaven" Book Two in the Snapshots in History series published by Harvest House Publishers takes us into the lives of Nathanial King and Lyndel Keim over the course of The Civil War.
From the Back Cover: Can An Amish man go to war and not lose his faith?
Can an Amish Woman become a battlefield nurse and not lose her family?
In April 1861, Lyndel Keim discovers two runaway slaves in her family's barn. When the men are captured, Lyndel and her young Amish beau, Nathaniel King, find themselves at odds with their pacifist Amish colony
As word reaches the Amish settlement that the nation is now involved in a civil war, Nathaniel enlists in what will become the famous Iron Brigade of the Union Army. Lyndel enters the fray as a Brigade nurse, sticking close to Nathaniel as they both witness the horrors of war. Despite the pair's heroic sacrifices, the Amish only see that Lyndel and Nathaniel have become part of the war effort, and both are shunned.
When Nathaniel is caught up in the severe battle at Antietam in the fall of 1862, Lyndel must call upon her faith in God to face its painful aftermath, not knowing if Nathaniel is alive or dead. Will the momentous battle change her life forever, just as it will change the course of the war and the history of her country?
This stirring Civil War novel, culminating with a heroic stand at Gettysburg in the summer of 1863, pits the injustice of slavery against the pacifism of the Amish and the love of the two courageous young plain folk.
I love history and "The Face of Heaven" is loaded with it without it becoming a school history textbook. Mr. Pura looks at The Civil War from the point of view of the Amish. I have now learned that the Amish are pacifists and are opposed to war so when both Nathaniel and Lyndel join the Union Army their community shuns them, or shuts them out, because they feel the couple has given up their Amish beliefs. However, both feel strongly that slavery must be dealt with and their country is worth fighting, and dying, for. "The Face of Heaven" is an adventure story filled with detailed battle scenes that will make you feel that you are there witnessing the event. It is also a thriller as both Nathaniel and Lyndel's lives are in danger during the course of the war. "The Face of Heaven" is also a romance that is all about relationships and that is what makes this book a winner. I enjoyed this book a lot and am looking forward to more by Mr. Pura.
If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to Kingdom Highlights where they are available On Demand.
To listen to 24 hours non-stop, commercial free Christian music please visit our internet radio station Kingdom Airwaves
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Harvest House Publishers for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
In The Face of Heaven, Murray Pura has penned a powerful, literary masterpiece, set during one of the most tumultuous, heartbreaking times in our country's history--the Civil War. The whipping and hanging of an innocent man near an Amish farmhouse forever changes the course of three young Amish people's lives; Lyndel Keim, her brother Levi, and her beau, Nathaniel King. In spite of being pacifists, they remain haunted by what they have witnessed, and feel compelled to follow the call to join the Union forces.
Lyndel obtains permission to work in the midst of the battlefield, nursing the wounded before they are taken to the hospital, and finds herself serving both the fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. Nathaniel King serves in one of the most courageous regiments in the Union army, the 19th Indiana Brigade, and Lyndel finds her way to him which results in a bittersweet reunion for the two. Separated by the horrific battle of Gettysburg, Nathaniel is severely wounded, and Lyndel must call upon her faith in God; not knowing whether the love of her life is dead or alive. Will she have the strength and the courage to keep nursing the wounded?...when her beloved is lying out there somewhere; possibly dead?
Murray Pura has written a brilliant novel; destined to become a classic. This book evoked so many intense emotions in me-heartbreak, horror, elation, and most of all pride...pride in this great country of ours, and of the men and women who gave their lives to truly make it "the land of the free and the home of the brave." At times my emotions were at such a peak, I had to place the book down, only to find myself picking it right back up--truly a page turner. *WARNING* This novel relives the battles of the Civil War and may not be suitable for more genteel readers. War is not pretty, and there is a lot of carnage, violence, and the harsh realities of war in this book. Though an intense novel, the love story within its pages is timeless and beautiful, and with a strong, spiritual thread throughout this is a definite must read for history/romance lovers everywhere! Very nicely done, Mr. Pura!
I received a copy of this book from Net Galley and was not required to write a positive review.
The Face of Heaven by author Murray Pura made a believer out of me. I can now say that I love Amish fiction! I was certain I wouldn't and couldn't imagine why a man had opted to write it. But once I started turning the pages to this captivating book, I understood not only why he wrote it, but why I had to read it. The message is life-changing, the writing superb, and the characters believable. Don't miss this one!
I love it when an author will find a way to put a unique and unexpected twist into something we would never have considered and as a reader seeing it with new eyes! That is just what author, Murray Pura has done in his recent novel, The Face of Heaven. He has delightfully taken two of my personal favorite genre's and blended them so wonderfully together that is makes a readers heart sing!
In The Face of Heaven, we meet the Keim's, your typical Amish family living and working hard on their farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1861. As Lyndel Keim, is finishing her chores in the barn she stumbles across two slaves running from the law, Charlie Preston and Moses Gunnison. Charlie is badly wounded and this is his third attempt at trying to make it North to find freedom at last while the Civil War is just beginning. Lyndel knows if she confronts her father, the Bishop, he will not lie but turn the men over to the sheriff if he comes looking for the men. So instead she finds her brother, Levi and his best friend Nathaniel King and enlists their aid.
Just as they are preparing to take care of Charlie's wounds, Lyndel's father comes in and is considerably upset that neither of his children felt they could trust him to do the right thing and care for the men. He has them moved upstairs and immediately cared for. As night falls, the Bishop gathers the elders at his home to discuss how to care for the men who have come to his home and it's obvious that some feel these men being slaves should be returned to their masters on the Virginia plantation and so the men are divided on the best course for what they should do.
Just as they are about to adjourn, there is a pounding on the door, and when Bishop Keim opens the door, the sheriff is there hearing that the runaways slaves are being cared for there. When Bishop Keim confirms that, the slave owners rush into the house looking for the men, Nathaniel blocks the staircase and tries to prevent them from being taken while they are still healing, but the men push past him and search the house looking for the men. When they take them bound and place them in the wagon, Nathaniel and Lyndel know that this is not God's will, and so the war within begins.
The Face of Heaven blends two wonderful genres of Amish Fiction along with Historical Fiction with a blend of suspense, action adventure and of course just the right touch of romance. Nathaniel is not going to stand idly by and watch the country he loves being turned over to the likes of the slave owners without a fight, even if it means being shunned by his church and community. The story really entices the reader is so many ways in such a perfect blending of lyrical words to describe the setting and the characters in the story that you feel everything as though you are actually there. He has truly found something amazing and it's not the only time Murray Pura has blended genres so well together. His first book, The Wings of Morning is another I will definitely be checking out and is on my MUST READ list. For those of you looking for something different, this is it and why I rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars.
I received The Face of Heaven by Murray Pura compliments of Harvest House Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review.
PROS: Engaging romance; excellent discussion about the practicalities of pacifism; battle scenes bring the Civil War to life
CONS: Initial set up seems very similar to first book; characters sometimes have a deeper understanding of the war than seems believable
As tension is building in the South in 1861, Lyndel Keim and Nathaniel King couldn't be more detached from the conflict in their Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While they debate the evils of slavery and whether the confederate states really pose a threat to the union, all of these thoughts are purely theoretical until Lyndel discovers two runaway slaves in her family's barn. The reality of slavery is suddenly made apparent to Lyndel, Nathaniel and their families, and when the slaves are recaptured by their master, Nathaniel cannot help but wish he had done more to protect them. Under the guise of visiting another Amish community in Indiana, Nathaniel signs on to fight for the Union army, leaving his blossoming relationship with Lyndel behind in Pennsylvania. But Lyndel understands Nathaniel's desire to fight the battle against slavery, and quickly volunteers as a nurse in a hospital in Washington. War cannot keep them apart for long, and Lyndel finds herself closer and closer to the battlefield every day, witnessing the true horror of war as she treats men who have been pulled from the fields of battle only moments before. Like her family back home in Lancaster, Lyndel longs for the fighting to end, but until then, she will nurse as many men as possible - Union and Confederate alike. But her family doesn't understand her desire to help, and interprets her work as aiding the war efforts rather than diminishing it. How can Lyndel and Nathaniel, raised as pacifists but now living in the midst of a raging war, explain to their families that war may be the only way to put an end to the evils of slavery?
When I began to read The Face of Heaven, I couldn't help but find a few similarities to the first book in the Snapshots in History series, The Wings of Morning. As in the first in the series, an Amish man bears arms in a war that the rest of his Amish community opposes, and his beau takes to nursing, also bearing scrutiny from her friends and family. Considering how quickly the roles of soldier and nurse fell into place for Nathaniel and Lyndel in The Face of Heaven, I was a little worried that I was reading a repeat of the storyline from The Wings of Morning, simply set during a different war. But as I got further into the novel, it became clear that Murray was going to take Nathaniel and Lyndel's story on an entirely different route from the protagonists in the first book in the series, and their involvement in the war against the wishes of their pacifist Amish community really were the only similarities they bore to the characters in The Wings of Morning.
When discussing pacifism with friends or family, the same statement is bound to be made at some point during the conversation: "Pacifism just isn't practical." While reading The Face of Heaven, I got the impression that this was how Nathaniel felt about the Civil War and the fight against slavery. He could not sit idly by and wait for the Englishers to settle the matter on their own, as he may have done if the conflict were over any other matter. I doubt that Nathaniel, or any of the other Amish men who fought in the Civil War, would have been so eager to take arms if this had been a war about ownership of land. Their belief that God created all men equal, even those of a different race from themselves, was what propelled them into bearing arms despite their previous convictions on the matter. Continually throughout this novel I got a sense of the conflict of interests regarding war and taking another man's life in battle. Was it right to kill if you were saving someone else's life? Setting someone else free from the chains of slavery? Fighting for what you knew was right according to God's Word? As someone with serious pacifist leanings, I could really sympathise with Nathaniel's internal conflict, and I'm sure other readers will find themselves similarly wrapped up in it.
While the romance in The Wings of Morning was rather minimal, since Lyyndaya and Jude were in separate countries for a large portion of the book, the relationship between Lyndel and Nathaniel in The Face of Heaven was definitely more to my liking. Although their courtship was only beginning when Nathaniel decided to join the Union army, it was kept alive by letters and brief encounters when Lyndel was allowed to nurse at the front lines of the battle. The growth of their relationship seemed very realistic, considering the conflict, and I was rooting for them to stay together despite all that was conspiring to keep them apart. I can see why wartime romances are among the most popular, with every moment the hero and heroine spend together having a heightened sense of importance, since it may very well be the last time they see each other. I didn't realise quite how enraptured I'd become with Lyndel and Nathaniel's relationship until Lyndel went searching for Nathaniel after the battle of Gettysburg. I'm not going to deny it; there were tears in my eyes as Lyndel searched for her beau.
If I have one major complaint to make about The Face of Heaven, it has to be the character of Hiram and the amount of detail he was able to provide on any area of the war at any time. I know that as a newspaper reporter, he would know a lot more about the war than the average soldier or nurse since he had more contact with the outside world, but at times it did feel like he was quoting passages from my high school history textbook. I often thought that Nathaniel and Lyndel understood the war and how it was progressing in a manner that wasn't entirely realistic, even considering their friendship with Hiram. Likewise, I didn't completely buy into how quickly Nathaniel and Lyndel decided they needed to take a stand against slavery, in response to their one incident with the runaway slaves. Although these factors didn't entirely disrupt my enjoyment of the novel, there were just a few moments when the characters' understanding of the progression of the war didn't seem completely realistic, or seemed to be contrived for the sake of moving the story along, as in the case of Nathaniel and Lyndel's strong thoughts on slavery at the start of the novel.
What I loved most about this book wasn't the emotionally heightened romance or the portrayal of an Amish man's desire to fight against slavery. In all honesty, it was the way in which Murray brought the battles of the US Civil War to life on the page. When I studied this war in my final year of high school, I enjoyed learning about the run up to the war, the aftermath and the end of slavery, but the facts about the battles themselves genuinely bored me to sleep. But Murray brought realism to these ordeals and humanised them, making me care about how the war progressed, in a way that I hadn't cared when I was in high school. I can appreciate this book for making me take an interest in whether Lyndel would ever see Nathaniel again, and for helping me to understand the internal conflict that the characters felt about their pacifist upbringing, but what has remained with me after finishing this book is the level of realism I felt in each and every one of the battle scenes. Even if you're normally put off by bonnets, buggies or any form of romance, The Face of Heaven is worth reading purely for the way in which it brings the US Civil War to life. I have high hopes for the third and final book in the Snapshots in History series and can't wait to read Murray's take on the Second World War.