Passing on a vision of life with God
The Legacy (Secrets of the Shetlands, Book 3)
Author: Michael Phillips (www.fatheroftheinklings.com)
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (www.bethanyhouse.com)
I normally would not think of starting with the last book in a three volume series. I hesitated, wondering if I should seek to acquire the first. I received a review copy, and instead of seeking to acquire the first two books, I decided to start with what was provided. Now that I have finished it, I don’t feel like I have lost out by not starting at the beginning. Like any volume in a series, it should be written well enough to stand alone. The Legacy by Michael Phillips does not disappoint in that regard, nor on other levels.
Phillips and his wife Judy spend time each year in Scotland. So Phillips writes with meticulous detail about life in the fictitious Whales Reef set in the Shetland Islands, right down to the foods, plants and customs. J. R. Tolkien has been rightly lauded for creating such a fully-realized alternate world in The Lord of the Rings. Although this series is not fantasy, I applaud Phillips for doing something similar in creating such a true-to-life story in modern and pre-modern settings.
This tale flips back and forth between the beginning of the twenty-first century and the early to mid twentieth century. The time periods are tied together by the stories of two families and their ancestors: one in America and the other in the Shetlands. At times the continual back and forth was hard for me to follow, but I think it’s more of a challenge for me than a problem on the part of the author. It’s all well done, and the chapter headings make the time and place clear. Plus, the chapters are short in length, which makes for easier reading. As I have said before, Phillips is an excellent writer. I enjoy reading his books just for the writing alone, but fortunately he offers much more than that.
You get two grand, sweeping love stories, which develop slowly, but are ultimately worthwhile, especially towards the end. If you like rich character development, you find it here. I was captivated by the villain that readers meet towards the end.
In a time when even the best of our race can seem sullied just by being in this world, we meet honorable characters facing real-life situations. Don’t believe that fiction is just escapist entertainment and has nothing to offer.
This book highlights what really matters: themes of family, love and most importantly, passing on a spiritual legacy. The inheritance of land, as important as that may be, is symbolic of something deeper, as Phillips writes of the father of one of the main characters:
For him the land was life. It was a legacy that had been passed down to him and that was his responsibility to love and protect and pass along to his descendants with the same devotion. It is what he called the Deuteronomy legacy. The land was a biblical symbol for something deeper―a permanent family legacy that can only be passed down from fathers to their sons and daughters (359).
That legacy is “the spiritual vision of life with God.”
This thought is bolstered by the interest the author shows in Quaker spirituality. The first reference highly esteems it:
Among America’s Christian denominations, Quakers had always been at the vanguard of progressive thinking. Had it not been his own ancestor, Quaker John Woolman, who had awakened the American conscience against slavery fully a century before the Civil War? Quakers, too, were socially ahead of their time in respect of women and their standing in the world (26).
A little further on we find two Quaker literary references. The first pertains to Hannah Whithall Smith’s autobiography. The second is her book A Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, regarded as a Christian classic.
I delight in the literary references sprinkled throughout these pages. Of course, Phillips would be remiss, if he did not make some mention of the beloved Scotsman, George MacDonald. He and C. S. Lewis have been his mentors in writing and the spiritual life.
Being a book lover, I appreciate the thought that passing on one’s books can be part of sharing one’s faith with future generations. We can be enriched by the writings of those who have gone before.
Having authored more than seventy books, Phillips is at the top of his craft. His maturity makes me hope for even more books to come. His vision of life with God is helpful and instructive.
Check out the website (link provided after author’s name at beginning of review) to find fiction and nonfiction that you might enjoy reading.