In the parish of Dunbridge, the news is out — Claire and Neil are engaged! And yet, almost before the celebrations have begun, Ben, the father of Claire’s son, appears back on the scene–keen to pick up where he and Claire left off.
As Neil reels in the face of Claire’s confusion, Wendy always seems to be there to provide support and comfort. Little does he know of Wendy’s involvement in Ben’s reappearance . . .
However, Neil has little chance to ponder his love life as the whole weight of running the church and parish descends upon his inexperienced shoulders. His mother, Iris, who has never hesitated to share her opinions, has just moved to be near him and Neil’s time as a curate in Dunbridge is coming swiftly to an end. Where should he go next, and just who will go with him?
For many years Pam Rhodes has presented the world’s number one religious television program, Songs of Praise. She writes for the Daily Mail’s Femail section, and is also a successful novelist, author of With Hearts and Hands and Voices and four other novels, as well as a number of other books.
The Reverend Neil Fisher, curate in training, returns in the third book in Pam Rhodes Dunbridge Chronicles series, If You Follow Me. A little older and wiser, Neil is scrambling to take care of parish business after the departure of the rector. Facing both serious challenges and hilarious situations, Neil comes through in this satisfying end of the series.
Neil Fisher’s life is very busy. Filled with funerals, weddings, christenings, dual church services and a host of other church duties, Neil’s greatest challenges come when faced with the very real people in his congregation. If You Follow Me is a view of a small English village church not unlike Jan Karon’s Mitford series. However, there is more of an edge to Rhodes’ book. Neil must minister to people facing grief, loss and lack of hope. A young woman and her children are burned out of their home. A couple married for over 60 years face the ultimate loss of their lives. And a young man’s attempted suicide has a profound effect on his parents. But Rhodes does interject a lot of hilarity as well. You won’t want to miss the wedding complete with The Battle Hymn of The Republic as a congregational sing.
One thing to note is that If You Follow Me is British Christian fiction. The standards for that designation in England are different than here in the U.S. You will find some profanity and a more liberal view of inclusiveness of the church. The one thing that struck me the most was that Neil is engaged to a non-believer — and no one has a problem with that. (Well at least no one that matters.) I found it interesting that his own Bishop and his former rector find that his coming marriage to one who is not a Christian won’t really pose any problems for his ministry.
(Thanks to Lion Hudson and Kregel for a review copy. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)
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