The Hardest Thing to Do

( 7 )


A leader is making his way home. A priory has been torched. And now an enemy is knocking at the door.

Prior William has caused a lot of pain in his time and is known for being an evil man. So when his own priory is burned to the ground and he seeks refuge with the brothers of St. Alcuin, everyone is quite uncomfortably surprised.

The newly installed Abbot John faces the first challenge of his leadership as the brothers debate about mercy and ...

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The Hardest Thing to Do

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A leader is making his way home. A priory has been torched. And now an enemy is knocking at the door.

Prior William has caused a lot of pain in his time and is known for being an evil man. So when his own priory is burned to the ground and he seeks refuge with the brothers of St. Alcuin, everyone is quite uncomfortably surprised.

The newly installed Abbot John faces the first challenge of his leadership as the brothers debate about mercy and justice, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears in coming face-to-face with a real enemy. After all, is it not positively ludicrous to invite a wolf in to live with the sheep? Yet, where is the beauty of the gospel without the risk of its grace?

Penelope Wilcock takes us on an imaginative journey into a world rife with hostility and pain, exploring the complexities of grace, the difficulties of forgiveness, and the cautions of building trust. Her intimate knowledge of the human spirit will challenge our very own prejudices as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do, and will anyone actually do it?”

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher

“When I reached the last page of The Hardest Thing to Do, I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace. Abbot John and his monks are not the only ones whose hearts and lives are ripe for change; Penelope Wilcock’s legion of readers may find themselves altered as well. Mercy, grace, and forgiveness are woven throughout the story with a deft hand, as we meet a community of God’s faithful servants who are genuinely flawed yet always sympathetic. The descriptive passages are poetic, and the medieval details evocative, with a rich sense of time and place. I offer my highest praise and most heartfelt recommendation: you will love this novel!”
Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times best-selling author, Mine is the Night and Bad Girls of the Bible

“Penelope Wilcock has written a novel as deep and contemplative as the monks whose stories she tells. Her intimate knowledge of medieval monastic life sweeps you into the past, yet the struggles she chronicles are timeless. This book is not toss-away entertainment; it’s literature that pours from a poetic soul. Putting it down at the end of the day was the hardest thing to do.”
Bryan M. Litfin, Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute; author, The Sword, The Gift, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers

“Beautiful, profound, moving, and spiritual, this book is written out of the deep well that is Penelope Wilcock. As the reader is drawn to live in the ancient monastery of St. Alcuin and share the daily challenges of the community struggling to receive the grace of God and bring it into their world, each one of us comes to ask: 'What is the hardest thing to do?' and, 'Can I do this, with God's help?'”
Donna Fletcher Crow, author, Glastonbury: The Novel of Christian England and The Monastery Murders

“James the apostle wrote that ‘mercy triumphs over judgement,’ but some of the brothers of St. Alcuin’s Abbey find vengenance more satisfying than forgiveness in Wilcock’s delightful tale of medieval monastic life. The Hardest Thing to Do is wonderfully accurate to time and place, and perceptive in its treatment of the strife which can afflict even the people of God.”
Mel Starr, author, The Unquiet Bones, A Corpse at St. Andrew’s Chapel, and A Trail of Ink

"I am encouraged that your new book will be released soon—it's like the promise of spring to me—something precious to hold in my heart until the day comes."
Dorothy Bode, mother to eleven (so far...), Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433526558
  • Publisher: Crossway Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/2011
  • Series: The Hawk and the Dove Series
  • Pages: 252
  • Sales rank: 478,578
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Penelope Wilcock is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, including The Hawk and the Dove trilogy. She lives a quiet life on the southeast coast of England with her husband and is the mother of five children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 20, 2011

    This book is DANGEROUS

    It actually makes you think. The book offers insight into the cloistered life of a different era. But more important it gives new insights into yourself as you contemplate what actually is "The Hardest Thing To Do" This is not the type of book I usually read. Butnthere was no way that I would not finish it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    A fantastic thought provoking, inspiring novel.

    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.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    4th in Hawk & Dove series is brilliantly thought-provoking

    The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock is the long awaited follow up to the Hawk and the Dove trilogy. This book is nearly impossible to classify in a genre. It's not a true mystery, certainly not a romance, and it's not a thriller. Yet this novel is a read with tremendous power. Brother John is becoming Father John and taking over for the beloved Father Peregrine as abbot of St Alcuin's monastery. He is nervous about the new responsibilities, but his burden becomes much heavier when an old enemy, Father William, seeks refuge after his monastery was burned by vengeful villagers in retaliation for the monks ruthless power and money-seeking. Brother Thomas has reason to hate William and stirs up the feelings of the other brothers against the man, until a shocking act changes everything. Wilcock's writing is never sensational or over-the-top. This is a story about men who call themselves Christians trying to deal with the hardest thing Christ asks us to do: forgive and show mercy. How that decision weighs on the various men at St Alcuin's is as the heart of this story, and how they will be changed by their choices. The story has much to say to us today and raises questions that are still not easily answered. I hadn't read the Hawk and the Dove trilogy prior to this, but I will certainly seek them out after reading this thought-provoking story.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    A Triumph in Christian Fiction!

    Penelope Wilcock's forth book in The Hawk and Dove series, The Hardest Thing To Do, is truly a masterful and uplifting glimpse into the depths and heights of the human spirit. Extremely well researched and blessedly unbiased, Ms. Wilcock's characters introduce readers to the beautiful and often misunderstood world of 14th century monastic life. Filled with complex relationships and personal drama, as the human condition necessarily demands, this novel adds most beautifully the dimension faith plays in healing wounds both physical and spiritual in the lives of these religious men. Enhancing her story is Ms. Wilcock's simple and rhythmic prose that captures the feeling of the Benedictine ascetic life. Truly a pleasure to read and a most welcome change of pace. I look forward to reading more from this series.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A book to challenge our prejudices today!

    This latest in Wilcock's The Hawk and the Dove series takes readers into the world of a fourteenth-century monastery struggling to forgive an old enemy seeking refuge.

    The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?

    In her fourth book in the series, The Hardest Thing To Do, Penelope Wilcock wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. Taking the form of journal entries, her story will delight the imaginations of readers captivated by a time and place far distant from our current world. Her timeless themes, however, will challenge our prejudices today as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, "What is the hardest thing to do?"

    I received this book compliments of Christian Blog Alliance for my honest review and it truly does take you back in time to a much simpler way of life living amongst the monks. Here we are reminded of their disciplined ways of taking care of gardens, to a strict call to prayer and tending to the poor and ill before there were doctors. However not all the monastery's do the bidding that the people believe they should. When a fire burns down St. Dunstan's, they learn that the monks that resided there were after a much greater need than helping the people, the need for power at any and all costs. I rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars and even though I haven't read the previous 3 in the series, this one can be read as a stand alone.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Sacrifice and forgiveness

    A new Abbott (Father John) is coming to St. Alcuin's and the brothers are preparing for his arrival while continuing their lives of service - Lent is upon them. The life is difficult and there aren't any luxuries, but as the brothers tell the story, the reader is drawn into life in the monastery. There are blessings in the life of service as well as hardships. But, as with any story, conflict arises when a prior enters their lives and tries to cause disruption. What will they do with him? Why was his abbey burned to the ground? Themes of hard work, worship, giving, and forgiveness are prominent, and asking for forgiveness seems to be the most difficult thing to do.

    I enjoyed this book because I love historically based novels. While I haven't read the trilogy that precedes this book, I am looking forward to picking up "The Hawk and the Dove" and taking the journey. The characters are realistic and the setting well researched. This book will make a great gift for readers who enjoy history, and book clubs will find some interesting topics to discuss. Thank you to Net Galley and Crossway for the opportunity to read this on my Nook!

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    Highly recommended!

    I enjoyed The Hawk and the Dove so I fully expected to enjoy The Hardest Thing to Do as well. I was not disappointed. I enjoy how the story is well told, the characters are well drawn and become people we care about, and the lessons are such an integral part of the story that even the sermons are interesting and convicting.

    This story takes place at St. Alcuin's, a year after the ending of The Hawk and the Dove. The stories told and lessons learned before are still part of this story and the characters, like all of us, still have growing to do. I think it helps to have read The Hawk and the Dove first to be familiar with the setting and the history. Having read it, it's a little hard for me to say if it could be read enjoyably if you have not read the prior book. I do know that if it has been a few years and you don't remember all the details, this story provides enough detail that you understand what is going on without feeling you are missing something.

    The dust jacket describes the book as being about forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. In fact, I think this would make a good companion to Unpacking Forgiveness by Tim Brauns as it covers many of the same points in the context of the community.

    The story shows the need for compassion and the struggle we have to be compassionate with people who are difficult to love, or enemies and people who don't even seem to see their need to be forgiven or to change.

    I enjoy seeing the life in the community of the monastery, and the different ways the brothers behave and react, and the different levels of self-awareness they display. The concept of vocation, understanding the difference between a human weakness and a human sin, it's all covered here in a gentle yet convicting and encouraging way. I love spending time at St. Alcuin's with the brothers who live there.

    Disclaimer: I did receive an early reviewer copy of this book in exchange for a review (not necessarily a positive review).

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