Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Newton & Polly--A Novel of Amazing Grace

Author Jody Hedlund plunged into the Historical genre with the wonderful Luther and Katharina. (Reviewed here.) I wondered if this book could ever live up to her previous story. I don’t know why I ever doubted.

In Newton & Polly, Hedlund tells the story of John Newton—the writer of the infamous hymn Amazing Grace—and the love of his life, Polly Catlett.

When the old hymn speaks of “a wretch like me”, it was spot on in describing John Newton. He was not the kind of man a father desires for his daughter—and Polly’s father was no exception. Not only was Newton a lover of the pubs, but he was lazy scamp, with very little chance of being able to adequately provide a good future for a wife of Polly’s stature. Even John’s own father had grown frustrated with his rapscallion ways. And to top it off, Newton mocked God!

Though Polly was a God-fearing woman, John did not share her desire to please the Lord. He had been raised for only a few years by his mother, a woman of devout faith. After her death, Newton grew to not only doubt the existence of God, but to ridicule those who clung to their trust in the Lord.

I must admit, much like the fathers in this story, I had also grown tired of Newton’s ways. Well into the book, I wondered how much more I wanted to read about his silly antics and irresponsibility. Perhaps it was due to having little time to read and having to grab a few moments here and there. Or perhaps Hedlund expertly described how very much a wretch was John Newton! It isn’t typical to dislike one of Hedlund’s main characters—but I did in fact dislike him. At the same time, I could identify with him.

Newton’s story is much like the prodigal son of the Bible. I was once lost, and like John, I lived as I pleased—and it left me every bit as empty. I will forever remember the moment I first experienced God’s amazing grace. If not for Polly Catlett, John Newton would have had no ambition to leave his reprehensible life and return home, and thus would not have experienced his own life-changing event that inspired him to write the beloved hymn.

Newton’s undying love for Polly was the driving force that made him want to be more than he was—his feelings for her never wavering. And just when Polly was ready to move on, God moved in a gargantuan way.

This book belongs on your shelf. It is a love story as great as any.

As far as the writing, the pace, descriptions, character depth, etc…
It’s Jody Hedlund, so of course it’s wonderful.

Come back next week for my interview with Jody Hedlund about her writing process!

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