This fall I had the pleasure of reading Penelope Wilcock's trilogy The Hawk and the Dove. This trilogy is about the stories a little girl's mother tells her about a group of monks. These tales, which are passed down through generations, include stories about monks learning life lessons. The reader grows to love the monks and care about their problems. When a monk has a personal breakthrough, the reader feels the breakthrough as his or her own. These charming and touching stories are held together by the single storyline of the little girl and her mother.
In 2011, Penelope Wilcock came out with a fourth book in the Hawk and the Dove series, entitled The Hardest Thing To Do. This book contains more small vignettes about monks in the St. Alcuin Abbey. There are a few differences in this book. There is one main storyline in this book, instead of many small ones. This book follows the monks and their reaction to a less than honorable man seeking refuge in their Monastery. I missed the different monks and the variety of life lessons they learned in the first three books in this series. I still quite enjoyed this book, but I liked the setup of the trilogy better. Another difference in this book is the missing thread of the girl as a narrator and her mother as the storyteller. I felt that this common thread held the mini stories together quite nicely. Because this book had the same storyline throughout it, it didn't need the common thread.
As a Christian, I gained a sense of peace reading this book. I was so emotionally invested in this book, I felt empathy and sympathy for the monks in St. Alcuin Abbey. I loved learning about the culture of a monastery, something I previously knew nothing about. Anyone with a love of God would do well to absorb this series, and enjoy every minute of it. Even people with no religious investment would enjoy learning about a different culture and a different way of life. I highly recommend this entire series and eagerly await the next book. I received this book and the preceding trilogy for free from Crossway, a Christian publishing company.