A wonderful second novel from the author of ‘The Healing – Will a monk’s habit help unlock his identity’. This book is actually a prequel to ‘The Healing’ although the story does stand alone. The series is set in medieval times among the abbeys and holy sites of Wales. One of the supporting characters from ‘The Healing’ becomes the central figure in this story – although to begin with we may find it hard to recognize him! If you’ve never read any Christian historical fiction before then The Pilgrim by Joy Margetts is a great place to start.
The Pilgrim by Joy Margetts
I was immediately drawn into this story of pilgrimage through the lives of these authentic characters who became quite real and dear to me. Although set in medieval times, the personal journey of faith is relatable even if, or when, the expression of faith is different.
This is historical fiction combined with powerful Christian teaching. There are aspects of the story that we can identify with from our own experiences. This makes the book easy to connect with while being a profound and enjoyable read.
The story begins with our introduction to young Henry de Brampton, who is leading a relatively privileged life. His future has been mapped out by others and he is destined for a career in the church. Henry, or Hal as he is known, struggles with comparison, seeing what is available for his brother, and what has been arranged for him.
Comparison leads Hal, as a young man, to succumb to forbidden love with tragic consequences. He then struggles to deal with the shame and guilt that follows. This section was emotional and sensitively written as it dealt with grief and despair. The author shared so effectively the strength of those overwhelming feelings of loss that I did shed some tears!
“I’m drowning beneath the waves of this sorrow, cut off with no one to help.” Psalm 88:17 TPT
‘Will a Pilgrim’s Path be His Saving Grace?’
Hal accepts the future that has been planned out for him and moves on into his destiny, but he is now carrying a heavy burden with him. There are unresolved issues within himself, the emptiness of a life lived under his own strength and apart from a relationship with God.
Hal now becomes Brother Hywel, but a different name and a new opportunity are external – real significant change only happens within. Pride in his advantages and a youthful arrogance swiftly damage the possibility of finding contentment in his new life. Hywel has now become a potential problem to the peace and well-being of the community where he is now living.
Hywel is offered the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Ynys Y Santes (Island of the Saints) as a time to reflect and find his purpose in life. With the threat of failure hanging over him, he really has no choice but to agree and confront himself on this journey.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5 NKJV
Life in the Word
Hywel joins a small band of pilgrims, all with their own reasons for traveling this long and arduous route. They cross Wales on horseback, finding lodging along the way at places of Christian worship. They find hospitality at an Abbey, where Hywel is given a small beautifully illustrated psalter. This handwritten copy of the psalms accompanies him on his journey and through this gift, he starts to connect with God.
Each chapter of the book has an appropriate Psalm quotation and as the chapter develops we see how the words relate to the experiences of the pilgrims. But, if we will allow them, these words can also draw us into conversation with God. As we read these much-loved Scriptures, they whisper to our spirit, and remind us of how our lives are founded in and on the word of God.
“Lord, I’m fading away. I’m discouraged and lying in the dust; revive me by your word, just like you promised you would. I’ve poured out my life before you, and you’ve always been there for me. So now I ask: teach me more of your holy decrees. Open up my understanding to the ways of your wisdom, and I will meditate deeply on your splendor and your wonders. My life’s strength melts away with grief and sadness; come strengthen me and encourage me with your words.”Psalm 119:25-28 TPT
Throughout this story, there is a beautifully woven message of redemption. That with God there is forgiveness and as we make our peace with Him, we receive peace within. With some twists and turns, Hywel comes to his journey end. Without too many spoilers, the pilgrims all find a measure of resolution on their way to their final destination, Ynys Y Santes.
“I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.” Psalm 118:5 NKJV
If you want to read more of Joy’s testimony, then visit her website where you can also purchase a signed copy of the book (UK only).
If you’d like to read more about the Island of Saints: Ynys Y Santes- also known as ‘Resurrection Island.’
(I received a complimentary copy of ‘The Pilgrim’ but the review is impartially my own.)