Books Of Note – When Sparrows Fall

Another noteworthy book I want to bring to your attention is When Sparrows Fall (Multnomah Books) by Meg Moseley.

The Story.
Miranda is a widow with six children, dependent in part on the kindness of her church, a small, conservative group with a domineering pastor. When Brother Chandler decides to move the church and all its members to a nearby state, Miranda sees her opportunity to break away.

Before she can carry through, however, she experiences a severe fall.

Enter Jack Hanford, her deceased husband’s half brother whom Miranda met once. Unbeknown to anyone else, she made Jack the legal guardian of her children should something happen to her. Though she survived her fall, she is in no position to care for the children, let alone homeschool them as she has been doing.

When Jack receives notice of the situation, he makes arrangements to look out for the brood on a short term basis. They quickly win his heart. Learning that Miranda will need some time to recuperate, he gives notice at work that he’ll be taking a leave of absence, and moves in to the rustic, backward cabin.

And so begins the relational adventure that involves blackmail and secrets and a lot of change.

Strengths.
This is Meg Moseley’s debut novel, and I suspect readers will be hearing a lot more from her in the future. She is a talented writer.

In When Sparrows Fall, the language is rich, the scenes are vivid, the characters are true. In addition Meg has something she wants to communicate and does so clearly through the context of the story. Consequently, the best part of the book, in my opinion, is that it makes the reader think.

It’s also a delightful story with interesting twists and surprising events and an unpredictable outcome.

Meg paints each of the characters so truthfully, it feels as if I know these people. Here’s a short sample from a scene right after Jack first met the children:

[Jack] jumped as the front door banged open and shut. Michael and Gabriel raced outside so fast they might as well have had wings.

“Boys,” he hollered to their backs. “Don’t go far. Stay away from the cliffs.”

“Yes sir,” the archangels answered as one. They vanished around the corner of the house without slowing.

Jack took a moment to sort them out. Michael was the older of the two. Sturdy, freckled, and a bit resistant to schoolwork. Gabriel, six years old, had fewer freckles. He was thin, restless, full of energy.

Martha trotted outside, wearing a hooded gray cape over her long denim dress. Jack half expected to see elf slippers with curled-up toes, but she still wore those clunky clodhoppers.

“What are you up to, Miss Martha?”

“Picking violets.” She hopped down the steps, making a racket.

“Don’t go far. Don’t go anywhere near the cliffs.”

“Yes sir.” She ran in the direction the boys took, her elf cape billowing after her.

Interesting children and a college professor unfamiliar with what to expect from them. Add in an environment that is more nearly Amish than average Americana, and you have the ingredients for constant conflict.

However the more serious issues are the internal ones the main characters must deal with. In other words, there are layers of intrigue from first to last.

Weaknesses.
My main problem with this and other stories that fall in the relational category, is that a good part of the conflict exists because the characters won’t talk to each other. Much of the friction could be reduced (and therefore the story wrapped up) if they would simply be truthful and trusting instead of secretive and independent.

I had an issue with events leading up to the climax. As I read, I understood the main character to be plotting something that involved a good many others. As it turned out, that was not the case. Perhaps I read more into the series of phone calls the character was making, but I was surprised when the time came for the others to become involved, and they were in the dark as much as I was.

Recommendation.
The minor issues I noted did not keep me from enjoying this story thoroughly. I’m glad to see Meg’s work available for the public and I trust she will establish a loyal following. I highly recommend this one to Christians who want to read a thought-provoking book involving relationships of all kinds.

4 Comments

  1. “My main problem with this and other stories that fall in the relational category, is that a good part of the conflict exists because the characters won’t talk to each other.”

    I know what you mean, Becky! To pull this off, you need to have a well-written back story that reveals the character’s hang ups and psyche. Sarah Sundin does this well. Francine Rivers’ semi-autobiographical series (“Her Mother’s Hope” and “Her Daughter’s Dream”) did this brilliantly with four generations of women who couldn’t talk to each other.

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  2. A good part of the conflict exists because the characters won’t talk to each other.

    Hmm … did the author show, though, that this is “typical” (though certainly not right) in the kind of patriarchalist environment she was attempting to portray?

    I’m curious as to how she may have explored the wrong beliefs that lead to such dysfunctions, Becky. For a while I had been aware of Meg Moseley, as one of the few touchpoint online acquaintances between my author friends and my concerned-about-Christian-chauvinism friends. Perhaps, though, the book mainly showed how this affected families more personally? Either way, from what I can tell, Moseley has not only drawn attention to this often-ignored infection in Christianity, but given us a good story — based on the words of your review. We’ll definitely need to check this one out.

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  3. Betty Ann, you’re right. It can be done well — the proper motivation needs to be in place so the reader is fully prepared and even agreeing with the main character that she has to keep quiet.

    When the reader knows more than the character, it’s harder, I think. In this case, because there were two POV characters, we knew she could trust Jack and wanted her to talk to him — at least to tell him why she wasn’t talking to him.

    Great to know that Sarah has navigated that minefield! I’m not familiar with the Rivers books you mentioned. Definitely authors can sell readers on character behavior, even bad behavior. And I suppose an author might think they did that. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks it didn’t work. 🙄

    Becky

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  4. Stephen, you’ll have to read this one. It did a good job setting up the patriarchal society and why this particular character was being held by it.

    I don’t know if you can make any broad assumptions, though. I thought Meg made this particular pastor responsible for the problems of the group. Of course that brings to light the fact that such a structure allows for this kind of abuse.

    As I said to Betty Ann, my problem was towards the end, when there had been some trust built between the MC and Jack and she wouldn’t give him the reason why she wouldn’t talk to him. Just that this was something she had to do.

    Still, an interesting story and one that should stir up some discussion. I can see book clubs having some lively conversations.

    Becky

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