Until the Harvest, the second full-length novel in the Appalachian Blessings series by Sarah Loudin Thomas, is officially out today!
You can find my full review here, but this post is more a rumination on character and theme. Since I’ve wavered quite a bit on my “Devotionals on the First of the Month” resolution (and have completely fallen off the train of “All Other Blogging Plans Whatsoever”), we’re gonna let this post pull double-duty. (And y’all know this is a spoiler-free zone, so read on with impunity!)
Back in February, I wrote about my seven-year-old self tackling one of life’s big questions—What is love? For one of its characters in particular, Until the Harvest is about this question, too.
Wise, West Virginia, 1976—There’s a sneaky little quirk to Margaret Hoffman’s character arc. She thinks badly of her parents, and her mother in particular, for being overly concerned with appearances over substance, but doesn’t see herself falling into similar ways of thinking. Margaret believes herself unattractive, and takes her outward appearance as an indication that love is not for her. Of course, her mother piles on nasty comments that foster this negative self-image, so it’s little wonder Margaret feels the way she does. And as is so often the case, she fails to recognize in herself the very flaw that defines her mother.
Beyond the scope of loving her little sister Mayfair, love is a mystery to Margaret—to the point that the news of an upcoming wedding between two very elderly neighbors slightly grosses her out. I don’t recall her basing this on their gray hair and wrinkles, but their circumstances as nonagenarians is still an external factor. She wonders, what’s the point of loving if they hardly have any time left?
In terms of her spiritual life, Margaret devotes a bit of thought here and there to “Christian charity” and “the Christian thing to do,” in spite of not having much use for church or prayer. These thoughts sound okay, but they demonstrate an externally-driven faith. She does love the poetry of the Psalms and is not closed off to belief—but she doubts that she is lovable, even by God. Her talents for organization and service appear purposeless to her, when in fact they are channels for tangible expressions of love.
Margaret has her own version of the appearances game playing out—her own field of wheat and tares sown in her heart. In other words, she’s a great character, plagued with the same bad and wounded thinking that barges into real life. If this sounds harsh, it’s only because it’s a little easier to identify the whisper of lies when you’re reading about them in someone else’s head.
So where does truth come in to counter? How does God teach us to love? Sometimes, He does it by sending us someone unlovable. In Margaret’s case, that person scores no “outward appearance” points. Once Mayfair nudges her sister to care, Margaret finds that she’s not so callous as to leave a dying person to their filth. Her talents do have purpose: to show love, even for someone who doesn’t have much time left. And it’s not pointless at all.
Turns out, those acts of love for a dying person spread healing to places physical death can’t even reach.
People. Words. Experiences. Their surfaces rarely tell all. Sometimes we have to wait until the harvest to see what kind of fruit they bear.
Disclosure Statement: I received a free influencer copy of Until the Harvest from Bethany House. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
P.S. Sorry for the fits and starts, y’all. I’m working on queuing up some good posts for this month. :)