When I received a request to review "To the Uttermost", which is book 2 of A Better Country series by Kristina Hall, I quickly agreed to read it. However, I wanted to start with book 1, "Strangers and Pilgrims" and I'm really glad I did.
Reading Strangers and Pilgrims first allowed me the opportunity to get to know the main characters in the series. Understanding their background and the struggles this created family survived, helped me appreciate and understand them. I doubt I would have grasped the depth and reason for their close relationships without the revelations of book one.
Both books caused me to really stop and think about several things. When reading books, hearing stories, or visiting battleground sites of the American Civil War, I often consider how families were forever changed. Reading a book, even a fiction book, about a soldier who returned home to find his parents dead and his home town overrun by the enemy, is not a scenario I previously considered. However, I have no doubt it is a plausible plot and was, most likely, a reality for far too many at that time in history.
As long as the reader keeps in mind that there are evil people in every region of every country and doesn't get locked up on Civil War sides, I believe "Strangers and Pilgrims" offers an excellent message for all.
It is unlikely anyone would struggle with the content in "To the Uttermost", but you will want the background provided in "Strangers and Pilgrims".
Strangers and Pilgrims Synopsis
In book 1 of A Better Country series, Harry Reiner has just returned to his home town in Texas and to a very unwelcome reception. He is easily identifiable as a Confederate soldier in this town overrun by Yankees, and they are intolerant of his presence. He is shot and left for dead in the middle of the street. Only one woman has the courage to come to his aid.
Rose Kendrick previously stood up against the self-appointed leader of the town, Edwin Burton, and is almost an outcast herself. She survives by taking in laundry, but once she takes in Harry, her business completely dries up. She finds herself, her home, and her loved ones under physical attack.
Sally Guilford is an orphan who was previously taken in by Rose. She is Rose's helper, adopted daughter, and biggest defender. Sally is also Rose's greatest area of weakness and evil people are not beyond threatening or even harming a child.
Doyle is an adult man who is Rose's only friend in town. Every time Rose is under attack, Doyle comes to her defense, which puts him in great danger. Because he has previously taken a bullet while defending Rose, his physical strength is limited.
These four individuals don't stand much of a chance against a lawless town full of enemies lead by a vengeful and spiteful leader.
Throughout this book, Christians are reminded that they are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth". (Hebrews 11:13)
To The Uttermost Synopsis
Book 2 of the series picks up a few years later where Harry Reiner and his family are living on his parents horse farm, but the book begins in the wilderness of Colorado with Owen Lockart and his 3 brothers escorting a captured outlaw to jail.
The outlaw is a member of Vic Guilford's gang. When the 4 brothers are ambushed by the gang, only Owen survives. He vows revenge for his brother's murders.
Owen heads to a farm in Texas (Harry Reiner's farm) where Guilford's sister
lives. He believes the brother will visit his sister there and give him
opportunity to exact revenge. Since Harry is familiar with the Lockart
farm and their excellent horses, he doesn't hesitate to hire Owen. Of
course, Harry has no knowledge of Owen's true intentions.
When the area farms are hit by rustlers, Harry and his workers establish around the clock watches. When the rustlers attack his farm, they kill one of his men and shoot Harry. All of the remaining workers, except Owen, quit. They don't believe defending Reiner and his farm are worth their lives.
Once again, Harry finds himself wounded and fighting a battle with little help. Unfortunately, his one remaining healthy worker has ulterior motives and Vic Guilford is back in town. Owen will go to great extremes to take down Guilford, but when another's life is threatened, will he go to the uttermost?
The message of this book is clear as we watch how a desire for revenge will eat away at someone's character and overshadow all else.
Both of these books deal with the insidious nature of anger, hate, & revenge. Conversely, they also include kindness, love, & forgiveness.
Too often, books can make forgiveness look easy and don't really explore the depths of emotions. I don't believe that is the case with either of these books. I think the author did an excellent job of walking us through the events, as well as the hearts and thoughts of those involved. She didn't try to make it all look simple or effortless, and everything isn't tied up neatly with the bow of Christianity.
We all struggle with being humans. I highly recommend this series to
believers who recognize we are strangers on this earth seeking Him to the
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