There is a famous quote from Dostoevsky, that ‘to live without hope is to cease to live’. Many of us can relate to this after the winter lockdown, and it is something the protagonist in Joy Margetts’ tender historical novel has to confront and overcome.
Driven to despair by heart-breaking betrayal, thirteenth-century nobleman Philip de Braose has lost faith in God and humanity. Working as a soldier for hire, he recklessly seeks death and is brutally injured, only for rescue to come in the unlikely form of a Cistercian monk.
This joy-filled, kind and compassionate man walks alongside Philip as his body slowly recovers and he is forced to confront the more painful wounds within. As they travel from France to an Abbey deep in his Welsh homeland, Philip disguises himself as a Cistercian and begins to rediscover the man God always intended him to be.
But when his past invades the present, his newly awakened faith is challenged by long-buried dreams and he must decide if he can live a life devoted to God outside the Abbey’s walls.
Joy comments, ‘Eight years ago I was struck down with a debilitating illness. I could no longer work, nor even concentrate to read or write. I spiralled down into a pit of despair, where I railed at God. I felt betrayed, abandoned and miserable. But God was not prepared to leave me there, and very gently He began to rebuild me.
‘One friend in particular was the inspiration for the joy-filled monk in my novel, speaking truth when I was believing lies, and praying when I could not pray. I learnt many things during this time about God and about myself, and those things have changed me for the better. My hope is that The Healing will help others who, like me, find themselves needing to believe, love and laugh again.’
It may seem that hope is an elusive thing, amid the uncertainty and suffering that the pandemic has caused. But the timely message of The Healing is that hope, in Someone and Something greater than ourselves and our situation, really can transform how we live in these times.