Author: Pam Rhodes
Series: The Dunbridge Chronicles
Publisher: Lion Hudson/Kregel
Release Date: February 22, 2014
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman
Neil Fisher is a new vicar at St. Stephen’s in Dunbridge and has his work cut out for him. In only his second year as curate, he has do deal with enough issues to make Peyton Place look tranquil. His overbearing mother Iris decides to come stay with him for an extended visit and insists on reorganizing his entire home to suit her needs, but of course under the guise that he “needs her help.” Not long after performing a christening for a desperately-wanted baby, he is forced to handle two devastating funerals of congregants. He breaks up with his steady girlfriend Wendy because he realizes he doesn’t truly love her, and she does everything she can to make his life miserable. His attentions quickly turn to Claire, the church gardener, who even though she is an Atheist, is a perfect partner for him. They have to deal with the fallout of a man of God involved with a woman who doesn’t believe in God while also untangling the messy lives of their followers. All in all, Neil’s second year with St. Stephen’s keeps him on his toes and often puts him into precarious and sometimes hilarious predicaments.
This is the second in the Dunbridge Chronicles, about the life of Neil as a curate and the many people of St. Stephen’s who welcome him as their leader. Of course, just because they go to church and are involved in the church life does not mean they are perfect; they need Neil’s help just as much as anyone else. Fortunately, Neil takes his ministry out and about and is always around his congregation. Whether it’s performing a baptism or wedding, or participating as a judge in a church-sponsored bake-off, or even spending time playing darts and drinking a pint in the local pub, Neil manages to entangle himself in the various tangled webs of those around him. He feels very unimportant and even lacks confidence in his skills, yet his people work out their problems, renew their faith, and increase attendance under Neil’s leadership. He relies heavily on Margaret, his co-pastor, for guidance and advice, but when something horrible happens to her, he successfully plows on doing the best he can.
This book is written about the life in the church, yet it provides many funny moments that will resonate with church-goers and non-church-goers as well. It doesn’t have one main plot but instead relies on the various veins of the many characters’ lives to carry the story through. It continues in another book, as a spurned Wendy decides to take matters into her own hands. This is a quick and charming read that will make people laugh and understand that nobody is perfect.
There is really nothing in this book that could be found offensive to readers, so anyone interested in a fun book about a church-going community will find it entertaining. There are some people cohabitating out of wedlock and one couple even conceives a baby that way, but there is no mention of violence, assault, or other objectionable behaviors. The book takes place in England and uses British terminology, so there may be some profanity that is not obvious to American readers, but it is mild if noticed. This should be a fun and easy read, so I recommend it for readers high school level and above.