Several years ago I got a phone call from my sister.
“Do you have the Children of the Promise book series?”
I told her I had never heard of them. She replied that I had to buy them immediately because she had gotten a KILLER deal on The Hearts of the Children series and had already bought them for me but that I HAD to read Children of the Promise first. Bibliophile that I am, I readily agreed and ordered all five in the series.
I’ve been a fan of Dean Hughes ever since. I picked up a few of his books when I was at Time Out for Women and got to hear him speak (I read All Mom’s Go To Heaven when I was in labor with Henry). I bought The Wind and the Waves last year and was just waiting for the time to open up in my schedule for me to be able to read it.
Heaven smiled on me and gave me the perfect excuse when I was asked to review the sequel, Through Clouds and Sunshine. Wahoo!
Through Clouds and Sunshine follows the dual stories of Will and Liz, and Jeff and Abby. We follow each couple through the ups and downs of living the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will and Liz’s family continues to grow as they work with the rest of the Saints to grow the little city of Nauvoo. The young church is struggling with rumors, strife, and selfishness from within; and persecution, threatenings, and violence from the outside. Will struggles with the knowledge that he hasn’t provided Liz with all of the creature comforts he promised he would, while Liz fears for their safety in a town that is becoming increasingly abusive to the Saints. Through it all, the couple’s devotion to each other and the Lord help them see the tender mercies that make it all worth while.
Jeff and Abby’s struggles are no less real than their ancestors. 170 years after Will and Liz lived and breathed in Nauvoo, the modern day Lewis family are dealing with their own heartbreaking trials. As their newborn baby’s life hangs in the balance, Abby and Jeff have to dig deep in order to begin to see the Lord’s hand in their lives. Turning their hearts and wills over to the Lord is no small feat. Life has thrown them some serious curve balls but Jeff and Abby find comfort in each other and the knowledge that they are not alone. The more that Jeff learns about his great (however many great) grandfather Will, the more he appreciates his sacrifice. The connection he feels with his ancestor helps lift his family more than he ever thought possible.
It’s difficult for me to tell you how I feel about a single book in a series, so I will give you my thoughts on both books. I found the premise of following two different story lines in two different time periods very interesting (given my literary history I half expected some sort of time machine to show up) then it occurred to me that that is what family history is! When you learn about your ancestors you are, in a very real sense, traveling back in time and getting to know them. I have read stories about my ancestors that have made me feel such a powerful kinship with them that I honestly feel like I know them and that they are watching me and helping me get along. I have drawn no small amount of comfort from the fact that my great grandmother was also a self-educated woman who loved to learn and that my great grandfather loved to refinish furniture just like me. Though if you have read The Hearts of the Children then Dean Hughes’s emphasis placed on the importance of our kindred dead is of no surprise to you.
I found the characters relatable and true to life. I loved the humility of Abby and Jeff as they let go of their preconceived notions about those who are different from they are and how they realize that maybe sometimes the best people aren’t found within the walls of an exclusive university, but in the Walmart checkout line. Dean Hughes books always make me think (a trait necessary for fine literature). I don’t even know how many times I cornered Matt so I could tell him about some of the things I was reading. I think the thing that stuck with me the most is that we tend to look at history through rose colored glasses. We know the anecdotes and stories and our heads know that it was really hard back then, but we tend to think that because people were born long ago, somehow their nature was different than ours. The truth is that they were just like us. We all have frustrations and heartaches. We aren’t perfect, we can be stubborn and make poor choices. The culture may have been different but our natures are the same.
Reading this series has certainly made me want to get to know my ancestors better. They aren’t just names on a family tree chart. They are my family.