The Hardest Thing to Do starts one year after the end of the third book, The Long Fall, in the early fourteenth century. The peaceful monastery of St Alcuin’s is adjusting to its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?
Penelope (Pen) Wilcock is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, including The Hawk and the Dove trilogy. She lives a quiet life on the southeast coast of England with her husband and is the mother of five adult daughters. She has many years of experience as a Methodist minister and has worked as a hospice and school chaplain.
Each successive book that I read in Penelope Wilcock’s series, The Hawk And The Dove, is my favorite. The quiet, yet powerful books that detail 14th century monastic life are truly treasures. In the fourth book of the series, The Hardest Thing to Do, the community is turned on its head when a hated and hateful Augustinian prior arrives seeking sanctuary. The brothers find that often the hardest thing to do is the most critical.
The community of St. Alcuin is in a transition period. As they enter the Lenten season, they await the return of Brother John, the former infirmarian who will take over as abbott. Winter still has a hold over northern England, but the promise of Spring is a whisper of hope to their souls. The deprivation and denial of Lent also brings forth spiritual fruit and growth. Abbott John is soon tested in his new obedience when faced with the turmoil that erupts following Father William’s arrival.
The phrase the hardest thing to do is repeated throughout this book. The monks face it when trying to live in peace in a community with diverse attitudes and temperaments. They find it in mundane activities as well as in the spiritual realm. There is an underlying theme of forgiveness and mercy that is well-suited to the season of Lent and the monk’s preparations for the Easter feast. I love how Wilcock takes the unfamiliar lives of 14th century monks and makes them relevant for modern day believers. The book reinforces the message of community in Scripture — the truth that we are of one body and every member is important no matter his role. I also liked that forgiveness is depicted in a realistic way — a hard thing for those who must give it as well as for those who receive. Beloved characters from previous books make an appearance as well as new who add to the diversity and vitality of the monastery of St. Alcuin.
It is not necessary to have read the first 3 books in the series to enjoy The Hardest Thing to Do, but I would recommend that you do. The series is wonderful; you need the full experience. You can check out my reviews of the first 3 books HERE.
To purchase this book, click HERE.
(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)