Wednesday, June 23, 2010

‘Not a Sparrow Falls’ by Linda Nichols – Book Review

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Many of the books I have read of late deal with the subject of forgiveness – particularly of self (is God trying to get through this thick head?!). The latest book I have read with this important topic as a main theme is ‘Not a Sparrow Falls’ by Linda Nichols.

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

         Two Desperate People – One with All the Answers …One with None
Mary Bridget Washburn is tired of running, tired of being haunted by the empty shell her life has become. How in the world did the little girl she once was become a woman on the wrong side of the law?
Determined to make a new start, she escapes to the quaint city of Alexandria, Virginia, where she takes on her mother’s identity and finds sanctuary in the shadow of a decades-old church. But the little girl’s plea proves to be her undoing, and the reverend…well, someone’s got to open his eyes before disaster comes calling.
Can Mary Bridget and her tainted past stay hidden long enough for her to bring hope to a family falling apart?

Here is the biography of the author:

Linda Nichols is a graduate of the University of Washington, is an award-winning and bestselling novelist with a unique gift for touching readers’ hearts with her stories. Not A Sparrow Falls, her bestselling debut novel for the Christian fiction market, was a 2003 Christy Awards finalist in the Contemporary category. She and her family make their home in Tacoma, Washington.

The main character in this novel is Mary Bridget Washburn, age 25, who, at the beginning of the story, was in her own personal prison as the girlfriend of Jonah, her childhood friend who had turned into a crystal meth addict/supplier; she was his accomplice in his ‘business.’ She’d grown up in a Christian home, so was well aware that this lifestyle was not what God had in mind for her. At her earliest opportunity, she fled the scene, and took on the identity of her deceased mother, Bridget Collins.

In Alexandria, Virginia, she was hired at a grocery store as a cashier. She made the acquaintance of three sisters –Lorna, Winifred, and Fiona. Lorna invited her to the home of their brother, Alasdair MacPherson, a Presbyterian pastor who was pasturing the church that had been led by his father before him.

Alasdair was a widower; his wife had died two years prior, leaving him with days-old twins, Cameron and Bonnie, and an eleven year old daughter, Samantha. He was more interested in his work then in his family, and was still grieving the loss of Anna.

Circumstances conspired, and Mary/Bridget – now known as Bridie – was hired as the nanny for the children. Seeing the pain and neglect that had been visited upon the children, Bridie, as a form of penance and in love, transformed this family.

God tells Bridie that He has an assignment for her:  

She scraped and scrubbed and there, in the gray dishwater, without wanting to, she saw the vision again – Alasdair, his face open and smiling, Samantha laughing, the twins loved and cared for. She turned the hot water on full blast as if to wash it away. This is what I’m going to do, she thought she’d heard. And you may help. (p. 132)  

Throughout this book, both Bridie and Alasdair were relentlessly pursued by God. Bridie’s maternal grandmother, Hattie, never stopped praying for her, and never gave up hope that the Lord would bring Bridie home.

As Bridie is making this new life for herself, she is tormented by the choices she had made in her past, and is still imprisoned – never knowing if she will be pursued for her crimes. She is forever looking over her shoulder. Despite that, she remembers the truths of Scripture that she had memorized as a little girl.

I loved this insight shared with Alasdair by his former seminary professor, Professor Cuthbert. Professor Cuthbert perfectly describes what can happen to people who study in seminary and/or get into full-time ministry:

…”But I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my faith has been somewhat top-heavy. North of the neck, shall we say?” (p. 187)

He went on to explain what happened when he had won a fight over his pulpit:

“The building was mine. The congregation was mine. Newby left. Took some members with him, but we were basically unscathed. The only problem was, the hand of the Lord seemed to have stopped moving among us. He’d set us aside. And I knew why. I’d forgotten what I was about, why I was left here on earth. I’d gotten my calling confused with my job.” He gazed at Alasdair’s face, but Alasdair knew he was seeing the past. “I kept on preaching, but it was no good. After a year or so I took the job at the seminary. The church carried on with someone else. You see,” he finished, a bittersweet smile on his lips, “I’d forgotten who was the real captain of the ship. The church wasn’t mine, but His.” (p. 189)

They continued their discussion with this sage piece of advice from Professor Cuthbert:

“You know, Alasdair, the older I get, the more I realize only one thing matters.”
“What is that?”
“To know Him. To walk with Him. Just as Adam did in the garden in the cool of the day. There’s nothing else.” (p. 190)

I really loved 'Not a Sparrow Falls'! The message in this book is that God is a God of second (and third and fourth, etc…) chances, and that His main objective is for us to know Him. And no matter what we think of ourselves, He is always in love with us and never stops pursuing us. That is a message that needs to be repeated over and over again, and Mrs. Nichols does it with such love and grace! I loved how this story showed many times over – in the examples of Bridie and in her grandma Hattie – that God uses us for His purposes, and we have the privilege to be a part of His Kingdom work!

I loved the ending of the story, and hope that Mrs. Nichols might someday continue the story of the MacPherson family.

You can order this book here.

This book was provided by Bethany House Publishing for review purposes.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Sounds like a rough (but good) read. I like the quote about faith being top heavy sometimes I can definitely relate to that.

Trinity Rose said...

When I read and reviewed this book I really loved it. It is now one of my top favorites. Love your review.
Trinity Rose

Andrea Schultz said...

Julia -
I know about the 'head over heart' thing, too!
Trinity Rose -
Thanks for the kind words. This is a really good one.
Blessings -

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