A Love to Behold by Sharlene MacLaren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an exceptional book and I wish that I could give it more than five stars! "A Love to Behold" is labeled as Christian historical fiction and it has facts that are as relevant today as they were in 1867 with its theme of racial bigotry and the attempts to label certain people as undeserving. The heroine of this story isn't a young girl just out of school; she is 27 and has already enjoyed a teaching career in Boston. Lydia Albright has been raised as a Quaker and she now feels God's call to teach at a newly established school for black children in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War has been over for two years but Charleston society remains divided. Many people are ready to accept that all people are created equal but there are some who believe the opposite and they still feel the sting of slavery being abolished. Part of Sharlene MacLaren's story touches on a group of prominent citizens in Charleston who have secretly started thier own group of the Ku Klux Klan and she vividly describes their activities. I had studied about the Ku Klux Klan in American history classes but she mentions several ugly incidents and I found them very disturbing. One incident involves these members taking a cross off of the wall of a church sanctuary, carrying it outside and setting it on fire. Yes, I knew about the burning of crosses but the author created such a poignant and upsetting scene. Lydia worries that her teaching has been the cause of such destruction but her friend and landlord reminds her that God had called her to this place. "You must be strong in the face of conflict. In the end, God will have His way, but we cannot allow the enemy to win this battle." (p. 238)
"A Love to Behold" is also a love story. Yes, there is romantic love and there are scenes between Lydia and widower Reese Lawson that made me almost swoon but there is also love of God and love for your fellow man. Despite all of the threats and ugliness, Lydia remains determined to prove to her students that they all are worthy to be loved, they all deserve the right to get an education and they must continue to hope for a better future. The love of God is also evident as Lydia and Reese share their beliefs with others. In one scene, when Lydia is trying to console Reese after the death of his father, she tells him "I shall pray for God to plant a seed of faith and hope deep inside your heart, so that whenever you have nagging fears, He will give you rest and speak words of truth and love into your spirit." (p. 258) Beautiful words that all of us need to hear and understand!
This is listed as the third book in the Forever Freedom series but I didn't find it necessary to have read the first two. I certainly intend to do so, however, because I truly loved "A Love to Behold"!
I accepted a complimentary copy of this book but I voluntarily chose to write this review and these are my honest opinions.
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