Readers are once again returned to the 14th century monastery of St. Alcuins in Yorkshire, England in this fifth entry of The Hawk and the Dove series. Most of the characters from the prior four books make return appearances, but the story centers around Abbot John and Father William.
Abbot John has just been in his position as head of St. Alcuins for about a month when he receives devastating news that his mother has been murdered and his sister gang-raped. These women lived together and were thought by some to be witches, but they were really healers and midwives. The abbot is devastated by this news and is numb with shock. He travels to see his sister with Father William as a companion. His sister blames what happened on Abbot John for not being home to protect her and their mother. The abbot struggles with an all-consuming guilt, Father William consoles, cajoles and finally sternly counsels the abbot.
As readers we follow the developing relationship between Father William and Abbot John as well as the abbots sister toward both of these men. Also, along the way one of Father Williams monks from his former priory is found horribly disfigured. Again, Abbot John takes on more guilt at not helping this monk the first time they met (in book four of the series). Father William again must pull him from the black hole of despair. Readers will also see Abbot John begin to gain assurance in his role as leader of the monastery. He returns the favor of counseling when William is struggling with an issue.
Just as an FYI, I think this series should be read in order as the story continues from one book to the next. The spiritual insight and truths shared are wonderful. The author writes with great insight into human emotions and how Christ would have us live our lives. The relationship between the monks shows mercy, compassion, jealousy, sadness, love and many other emotions we all experience. Above all, readers see the monks trying their best to live life as Christ like examples. I cant wait to read book six titled, Remember Me.
The best part of this book is the discussions it fuels. The Hour Before Dawn takes an in depth look at how people deal with tragedy and faith. Although I didn't agree with some parts ( Times have changed since the 14th century :) ) there were some parts that were really inspiring. And most importantly, the book leaves you filled with hope. Thank you Penelope Wilcock for tackling some difficult issues and the encouragement. God Bless!
Tragedy comes to Father John. His mother and sister, healers living together apart form the village, are accused by the villagers of witchcraft. Several men of the village take it on themselves to rid the village of this satanic influence. John's mother is killed, burned to death in her house. His sister is raped. The horror of it almost causes John to lose his reason. But the community is there with prayers and love.
This is another book about the power of community. Although each man is imperfect, they are able to comfort each other, strengthen their brothers, and through prayer bring someone back from the crucible of tragedy. The characters in this book are wonderful. No one is perfect, but they're real people; people you'd like to know. I also love the plot. This is not a tidy book where everything is made right. As in real life, people go through a horrible experience and end up stronger, but they're still human with all the faults of humanity.
I highly recommend this book, particularly if you're dealing with grief or loss. Like the title says, the hour before dawn can be the darkest part of the night, but the golden light of dawn is coming. This story holds out the hope of healing from even the worst tragedy and shows how people can help and strengthen each other with God's love.