Review: Anthems of Zion trilogy by Katie Schuermann

I waited to write this until my tears had dried, but I didn’t want to wait too long to write this review. This series was fantastic. I wrote a while back on the first book, but it took me a bit to get ahold of the last one, what with moving and life and all. But like the other two, I ate up this book as soon as I got it, eagerly turning page after page. This is likely the best novel series by a Christian author I have read, and I cannot recommend it enough.

On the one hand, that statement doesn’t say much. I have a low opinion of most Christian fiction, and I rarely see anything outside of C.S. Lewis that I like, let alone love. Most Christian fiction is therapeutic moralistic deism wrapped up in a half-baked plot. But not so with Schuermann’s trilogy. She has a compelling story with real characters. The Truth is woven through it all, and she makes a most wonderful story out of it.

But back to my opening. The last few chapters were a wonderful wrap-up to this story. In a way, I felt like I was saying goodbye to the people of Zion and moving to a new church somewhere else. Perhaps I feel this way because my family recently moved away from one church to a new state and a new church. To be fair, we left two churches: one that I hope to never set foot in again, and another that I will miss dearly and pray to see again with all her people. And I think this in part is why I was so moved as I turned the final pages of this book, closing a series that has found its way to the deep corners of my heart. While the last chapter made me laugh, it also showed me the beauty and depth in ending a story well yet leaving in your heart that future that goes on there beyond what is written.

And then I read the letter from the author, and I cried real tears. While I don’t know Katie or all her struggles, I loved how she opened up her heart as a writer and as the wife of a pastor. It is not the same, being a wife of a DCE, but I felt like I understand her a little in that vocation and as a writer. In addition, I got to know her through her characters. As she talked about his inspiration from her husband, how as a writer she pulled from herself and people and places she knew to create the story, and how her own personality shaped how she as a writer interacted with her characters, it really moved me. Her books bring to life the joy, pain, laughter, tears, anger, and love that can be found in church life. This is a book series that can be enjoyed without working closely in the church, but I do feel a special connection with it that way, both as a church worker’s wife and a friend to so many families that work in the church.

Yet I also felt convicted at times both for those vocations and as those of parishioner and person. These books, in the midst of gripping you with an engaging story, teach empathy, compassion, conviction, and hope. Through her characters, the reader becomes and empathizes with so many different people from so many perspectives. While there is still so much to learn, engaging with these characters, these people born of Katie’s heart and experience, helps the reader love better those around them. It is amazing how much a good writer can accomplish with a story!

I wish there was more to the story, and yet, after reading the final pages, I like to simply imagine what life is like afterwards for the people in these books. The shortness of a trilogy also makes it a manageable read, and I look forward to returning to this series over and over in the years to come. If you love realistic fiction with characters to love and cry with, to engage with a story that pulls you from one page to the next (where you might suddenly find yourself halfway through the book!), this is the series for you.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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