The Prodigal Son
(The Graham Saga, Book #3)
By Anna Belfrage
Matthew's continued and stubborn religious support places his entire family in danger, causing quite the strain on his marriage. After all, Alex was born in 1976 and raised in an extremely secular environment (prior to being flung three centuries backwards in time) so she finds all these faith related conflicts very difficult to comprehend.
"Come, come, mistress, all of you know that the king requires all men to swear oaths of fealty to him and his church. A most necessary measure here, where Covenanters stand as thick on the ground as common daisies..."
Matthew Graham feared that if he signed the oath, if he renounced his faith, then he would risk his very soul and a chance at life everlasting, but if he did not, if he continued to aid the likes of Alexander "Sandy" Peden, then he put his wife and his children in mortal danger.
For Alex Graham, it is a simple choice. Family must come first, and if her foolish husband cannot see that then... Things had been so different in her own time. More tolerant. Less intimidation. But Alex had made her choice to stay with Matthew in the 17th Century many years ago, and she does not regret that choice. But, if Matthew continues to play this dangerous game of cat and mouse, then she can foresee only death and despair.
However, the greater the persecution, the stronger the convictions of the Covenanters become. But such religious zeal is a two-edged sword, and while God watches on with apparent disinterest, Matthew risks losing everything and everyone he has ever loved.
Set during a time of religious persecution and civil unrest, The Prodigal Son (The Graham Saga, Book 3) by Anna Belfrage is the unforgettable story of one man's fight to defend his faith against insurmountable odds and one woman's determination to save her husband from himself.
Oh, my. I don't think words can express how much I loved The Prodigal Son. I was already invested in the characters of Matthew and Alex after the first two books, but what I did not expect was to fall in love with them all over again. I was swept totally off my feet by this novel.
Belfrage has written a book that not only evokes the mood of this era, and the hardship and uncertainty, but she has also penned a story about love and loss, heartache and joy. All of which has a sense of realism about it. These characters are profoundly affected by what they see, what they have experienced, and indeed their own decisions. This story, above everything else, explores the human condition — from birth to death, with everything in between, set in a backdrop of violence and repression. At times this book was deeply moving, at other times joyfully amusing. The Prodigal Son is a truly extraordinary story.
Any historical reviewer worth their salt has to praise Belfrage for her attention to the historical detail. Not only has Belfrage a firm grip on the event, most notably the Scottish Presbyterian movement during this time, but she also has a great understanding of what life might have been like concerning the management of a successful farm — if they got the timing of the harvest wrong, if the harvest failed, then that became a life or death situation. It brought home how difficult life was back then. This vast difference between then and now was demonstrated rather beautifully by Alex's perspective. Alex occasionally has moments wishing for modern healthcare, fast-food and television, which reminds the reader of that differences between the two periods. Alex also cannot understand why anyone would put their faith before their children's welfare, and this gives rise to some rather interesting exchanges between herself and her husband. Alex is also not afraid to tell Sandy Peden what she thinks of him — much to Sandy's mortification. Alex often finds herself very close to the boundaries of propriety when she has moments where she forgets what era she is in, which was sometimes cringeworthy and other times extremely entertaining — her husband and her children will eat their greens because they are good for you and so is taking a bath! Alex is a fabulous protagonist because as a modern reader, you can put yourself in Alex's shoes and wonder if you would do anything different to what she does. Alex is a character that I absolutely adored, she is truly wonderful and a pleasure to read about.
Matthew, on the other hand... Oh, my days. Poor Alex — she might as well have banged her head against the wall, for he would not listen to reason. His stubbornness, his loyalty to his faith, could be commended if it didn't put himself and those he loves in danger — and it wasn't even one-off, he did it again and again. Of course, I can understand his principles, and why he was so determined throughout this book to aid and abet Sandy, but at the same time, he is risking his children's lives — saying that however, I love Matthew. He had been through hell in Book 2, but he kept on walking, and he continues to do so. His spirit is not one that can be easily broken. However, Matthew feels very deeply — perhaps too deeply, and everything he has been through and witnesses leaves a mark. Despite Matthew's dalliance with the law, he has a beautiful relationship with his children, and, when they are not disagreeing, his wife! Matthew's relationship with Ian was particularly poignant in this story, and I enjoyed reading about that.
Ian's story is one of abandonment and heartbreak. He is a child who thought he knew who he was and where he came from, but in this book, he learns a truth that changes the course of his life forever. I thought Ian was masterfully portrayed. He is such a likeable young man, and I look forward to reading more about him as this series progresses.
The narrative is incredibly compelling, and it is next to impossible to put down. This book is definitely a keeper and one I will come back to again.
The Graham Saga is addictive to the extreme — not only because of the realism in Belfrage's writing, her attention to historical detailing, and of course, not forgetting, the evocative Scottish landscape — what brings a reader back to this saga is the characters themselves. I cannot wait to get my hands on Book 4!
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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The Prodigal Son
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. She has recently released the first in a new series, The Wanderer. This time, she steps out of her normal historical context and A Torch in His Heart is with a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.