FIRE, 1740-1741; STORM, 1798-1800; PROOF, 1857-1858
By Bill Bright and Jack Cavanaugh
Howard Books www.howardpublishing.com
3117 North 7th Street
West Monroe, LA 71291
The Great Awakening Series is a four-book set unlike any I have ever read. The idea for the series belongs to co-author Bill Bright who "had a strong desire for revival in America." He sat down with Jack Cavanaugh, and together they worked out the concept for the series. Unfortunately, Bill Bright did not live to see the books in print since he died in 2003 from pulmonary fibrosis. However, together they knew that fiction is "a powerful way of communicating spiritual truth," and so they set out to re-tell several events of revival in our history in hopes that revival may once again occur in our country. All books are "inspired by actual revival events ... and explore the personal and spiritual upheaval that occurs when the Holy Spirit stirs the waters of our souls" (synopsis taken from the back of the book Proof).
All four books in the series will be available by Fall 2006. I was given the first three in the series to read and review. Three of the books are written in chronological order. Fire should be read before Storm since the two books have characters that are related even though the revival events are different. The fourth book, Fury, picks up with the same characters from Fire and Storm. Only Proof seems to be a stand-alone novel. I would put these books in the category of historical fiction-their purpose is to "arm students with factual knowledge of the religious movement in this country." In each book, the main character must deal with his desire to remain true to his Christian beliefs while also taking on the responsibility of spreading the news that God is real, that He is there for us, and that "He hears our prayers and WILL show us His grace and power." Of course, this is not an easy path to take-ALL of the main characters suffer through many trials as they work to remain true to their God and to spread the news about Him. They are ridiculed, ignored, taken advantage of, betrayed, attacked, and humiliated as they work to bring revival to their towns.
Here are brief descriptions of what happens in each book:
Proof: 1851-1858-An orphaned boy, Harrison Shaw, becomes a lawyer and earns a prestigious and much coveted internship with a prominent local New York attorney, J.K. Jarves. However, after working with Jarves for a short time, Harrison learns some bothersome information about his employer that goes against his Christian beliefs. Harrison decides to leave his internship rather than compromise his faith. Jarves becomes quite enraged and seeks revenge. Events only worsen when Harrison befriends Jarves's daughter and introduces her to the revival going on in their town. When she declares herself a Christian, her father attacks Harrison's church, charging them with manipulation, and takes them to court. What unfolds during the trial seems to threaten Christianity throughout American when the Holy Spirit is called to testify in court!
Fire: 1740-1741-Josiah Rush has been asked to return to Havenhill, Connecticut, after being sent away seven years ago for causing a fire that killed three people: the town's preacher and two young children. Rush looks forward to receiving forgiveness from the townspeople as well as seeking out the woman he longs to marry, Nabby, the daughter of the preacher he killed. God has given Josiah the ability to feel physical pain when he is around evil, and Josiah feels this pain as he enters the town for the first time after being asked to return to become the town's next preacher. It is a pain that does not go away, and Josiah is convinced that the town is suffering from "soul sickness." He seeks out the help of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield to preach revival and drive this evil from his town. However, what Josiah finds is that there are secrets hiding around every corner-he must seek out the truth to save the town!
Storm: 1798-1800-Asa Rush, grandson of Josiah Rush, enters Yale University just as the Great Awakening is beginning to decline in America and people turn toward the beliefs of the French Revolution in a country across the Atlantic. Asa quickly makes an enemy in Eli Cooper as they vie for the affections of the same woman, Annabelle Byrd. However, Asa soon learns that Eli is the son of a revival preacher and has turned away from his faith. Yale president and Asa's tutor, Dr. Timothy Dwight, requests that Asa befriend Eli and use his gift of personal evangelism to turn Eli back to his Christianity. Of course, Eli despises Asa, and they even end up in a duel! Can Asa save Eli? Will the French Revolution change the course of American history? Who will win the affection of Annabelle Byrd? Read the book and find out what happens!
I would recommend these books for all adults as well as students in high school and up. There is much to be learned as we read about God's power and His ability to change lives through just ONE person! The overall message is one of hope as we watch these strong Christian men stay true to their God and pray to Him for guidance and then follow through and do HIS will, not their own. When reading fiction, I usually find something that I don't like about the book, but I can honestly say that this is not the case with "The Great Awakening" books. The stories are believable, the characters are interesting, and the historical settings are explained in such detail that you will find yourself drawn into the story as if you are a part of the history that you are reading about. I honestly found myself reading these novels WAY past my bedtime! I must admit that I read these books at a "dry" point in my faith, and I found myself feeling renewed and "revived" after the month that it took me to read the books. Just a coincidence? I don't think so. This series is a wonderful addition to the historical Christian fiction genre, and I would recommend them highly!
(Note: Quoted descriptions of the series came from the Media Kit that I received along with the books.)
Product review by Kris Price, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2006