Review: Strangers and Pilgrims by Kristina Hall
At first glance, Strangers and Pilgrims is a pretty simple, straightforward story. Well-paced plot that held its own over the course of the book. Three-dimensional characters that were portrayed realistically. Obvious theme that has an impact. A classic western setting. Lots of dropped gs.
But once you start reading, woo-wee! You’re in for a wild ride!
To be honest, I kind of expected SAP to drag. I mean, there’s really only one plot point—avoiding and/or getting rid of that slimy Ed Burton so that the rest of the world can resume living—and that has to stretch out over 20-ish chapters. There’s no mystery, only a smidge of suspense, and the barely-there romance doesn’t come about until over halfway through.
Doesn’t sound very captivating, does it?
Well, don’t let that fool ya, ‘cuz, y’all! This book held my attention the entire time! I kept flipping pages (aka, tapping my Kindle screen) to read more, hungry to know what happened next! Hall paced the story so well that shoving the powwow with Burton to the very end didn’t seem like a stretch at all! In some ways, I felt like it was a slow, steady story, but in others, it flew by! I love it when a story messes with my perception of time and length like that.
So maybe it was just the pacing that kept me reading...or maybe it was the characters! Sally was laugh-out-loud hilarious—and, I mean, who can resist a redheaded kid with a Texas accent and a few humorous quips, am I right? Doyle was a lovable old coot, for sure, and Burton made a pretty frightening (and also slightly insane) villain. I mean, I’d been rooting for an HEA for everybody the whole time, so it would’ve been cool to have seen Burton’s inner motives and maybe—just maybe—have him come to Christ before he died...but I also think the character’s refusal to change did drive the point about eternity home, you know?
As for Harry and Rose? Well, shoot, y’all. Give me a Confederate soldier any day and I’ll be pleased! Harry was the typical Southern gent/war veteran—all tender kindness and bullheaded stubbornness. Admittedly, he was missing just a little something, and so was Rose. I mean, I liked Rose, far as heroines go, and I liked that Hall didn’t give her a sugar-coated life or make her some snarky independent woman (y’all know I can’t stand those). But, eh, she didn’t have that wow factor. Honestly, few heroines do. I’m just hard to please.
Speaking of Confederates...I am so beyond happy that Hall portrayed how Confederate soldiers were treated by them durn scallywags and carpetbaggers after the war accurately! Of course, I loved having a Rebel for a main character, but more so I loved having a Rebel who was lovable—not some stupid, miserable poor white trash, like how 99% of all Southerners (particularly Rebs) are portrayed.
As both a Southerner and a Rebel, I’m pretty sure I can attest to the fact that, yes, at least 80% of all Confederates were just as upstanding and God-fearing as Harry.
But that’s enough of that. Y’all know I could go on for days…
Which I promise you I won’t. This time.
Now where was I? Oh, yes, I think I was just about to get started on Hall’s writing style.
Let me say this, from a technical perspective, Hall gets an A. There were little to no typos (if there were any, I never caught ‘em); her sentence structure was great; her paragraphs were clear; everything flowed smoothly and consistently; all historical facts were accurate; her dialogue felt real.
Personally, I would’ve liked some more description (although I do appreciate that Hall kept all the action clear) and just a closer look at everyone/everything. I felt kind of detached the whole time, like I was on the outside looking in. Despite that, she did give us a pretty good view of the POV characters’ thoughts (if not their emotions), and on that note, their internal struggles were all very well-developed and carefully handled.
Speaking of struggles, I really enjoyed the theme. It was different than most Christian fiction—since Hall wove the usual theme of forgiveness and salvation in with a deeper glance at what eternity and Heaven really means. And, yeah, it was preachy. I do think no one can write an unpreachily-preachy book like Julie Lessman, but I do appreciate all these new authors pouring their love and faith in God into their stories and being wholly unashamed of the Gospel. Because, you know, approved writers are not ashamed.
There were some things I would’ve liked to have seen—such as Harry and Rose witnessing to Burton, and something said about Harry killing those two men in the first chapter (I guess that qualifies as self-defense, though)—but, you know, plot comes first. That being said, they took everything to God in prayer, and that pleased me immensely. ‘Cause, seriously, don’t get me started on characters who don’t pray. That ain’t a fun topic, trust me.
Long story short (because I promised y’all I’d cut it short and refraining from gushing about Rebel soldiers), Strangers and Pilgrims was better than I expected and better than the blurb makes it seem. It’s very well-balanced and has that classic Western feel to it, minus the cursing and John Wayne and plus a lot of awesome Christian content. This is definitely the book that could convert you to a Western reader (or a Christian), trust me!
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided bythe publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Kristina Hall is a sinner saved by grace who seeks to glorify God with her words. She is a homeschool graduate and holds a degree in accounting. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, arm wrestling, lifting weights, and playing the violin.