Book Reviews

Book Review: Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund

14.jpgAmazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found…

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

If there’s one thing you can count on Hedlund for, it’s a well-researched story and she delivers that here with Newton and Polly. There’s a little-known heroine standing behind a well-known figure of the church, John Newton. It was great to shine the light on Polly and get to know more about the man behind the song, Amazing Grace.
Those familiar with the story behind the hymn will know that John worked in the slave trade. This painful fact comes to life on the page as Hedlund brings history and fiction together. I appreciate the way she handles these heart-wrenching details. While the truth is hard to swallow, I felt like Hedlund didn’t seek to shock or hurt her readers any more than the plain truth was going to do. Sensitive readers do need to be aware of the tough subjects found in this book. However, I was grateful that this area of his life didn’t color every page.
My one complaint is that the story starts off rather slow. As a reader who persevered, I can heartily recommend staying the course because there is a powerful story here. As a writer of several hymns, we tend to forget that John had a rather colorful past. Hedlund lays out John’s self-destructive background and it only serves to make God’s grace appear all the brighter. The words of his classic hymn make all the more sense when you understand just what a wretch he really was.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction and fiction based on real heroes of the faith. I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

~I received a copy from Blogging for Books. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

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