I’m a fan of Christian historical fiction, and Jody Hedlund has helped increase that affinity.
Hedlund’s newest book, Unending Devotion, follows Lily Young, a youthful, vivacious woman on the search for her lost sister in Michigan lumber towns of 1883. As orphans, Lily and her younger sister, Daisy, never had a permanent home, but managed to stay together until just prior to the time this book picks up their story. Lily works as a photographer’s (Oren) assistant, taking portraits in the rough and dangerous lumber towns amongst lustful and violent shanty boys. While she works, she searches for her sister and openly fights certain evil aspects of lumber industry living. Lily meets Connell, a rare man amid the rowdiness, and the two begin to consider helping each other.
Jody’s characters generally have unique, specific traits and mannerisms, which help define and deepen the personalities. This book, her third novel, continues the trend. I found myself quickly forming an admiration and attachment to the main characters, and even some of the minor characters (especially gruffly protective Oren—loved him!).
This novel had the most evil “bad guy” in any of Hedlund’s novels yet. The situations presented in this novel made me shudder from foulness, which was an appropriate reaction. Rather than just be scared by the situations, Jody writes in such a way that causes me to feel as passionate as Lily against the injustices and wrongdoings.
In the first chapter alone, Hedlund combines danger, determination, mystery, intrigue, humor, dedication, gratitude, and historical information. Jody holds a remarkable talent in knowing just how to end chapters to require you to keep reading. (How could I possibly wait until tomorrow to read some more?!)
Jody describes scenery with vivid emotion and images, pulling the reader into the environment. Phrases like “…the wooden frame rasped like a dying man gasping for breath” (p.8) cause you to wonder if Jody sat in front of wooden window listening to the sound over and over again to conjure up such a showing description.
Unique imagery is applied to emotions and situations: “Hope unfurled in her middle like a wild flower” (p. 241). The reader feels many of the emotions the characters involved feel, especially thoughts from Connell and Lily, the two points-of-view told in the chapters.
And that’s where Jody helps us learn from fiction. How would we react in similar situations? How would our faith stand? How much do I try to take over a situation rather than rely on God to act? Hedlund’s story helps readers ask similar questions of themselves that Lily or Connell raise.
As a historical fiction piece, some of this novel’s characters, events, and environments are based on true stories. Hedlund does her research and shares specific details in an author’s note at the end (which I love).
For page-turning action touching on forgiveness, perseverance, God’s strength and sovereignty, and humble reliance, consider reading Jody Hedlund’s Unending Devotion.
*Special note: I’m honored to be hosting Jody next week for a quick guest post, featuring a “fun secret” about her life as an author, mother, and wife. Come back on Monday for her post and a giveaway! (Check out other posts in the series here.)
Questions for you: Do you read historical fiction? What stories of perseverance and reliance inspire and challenge you?
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.