You’re More Than You Thought, Not Less {Book Club}

Book Clubbers, I want to dive right in to today’s section in Shiloh by Helena Sorensen (Chapter 13-26), so if you haven’t read them yet or don’t want any spoilers, I’ll give you a couple more sentences. But then? Consider yourself warned :).

What other books is Shiloh reminding you of? I keep thinking about The Giver primarily, but also The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Hinds Feet on High Places. Now, most of these books I have’t read in years.

Okay, diving in.

As I reflect on this section, I did not see Abner’s death coming. I think I sensed something big was going to happen on the hunt, but ever the optimist, I thought either Simeon or Amos were going to come through in some way that made the town less suspicious of Abner.

One of the aspects of this book I am loving is the beautiful language. It either reminds me of truths I know or invites me to view my own life and the times we live in from another angle. For instance:

  • As Abner is dying, “There’s more than Shadow. Don’t forget.”
  • When the dead were burned they were “given back to the light.” Though many didn’t know what that meant. How many in our world do or say things but they don’t know the history behind them.
  • The way we entered into a story in a different way when we have personal connection to it. “He thought about his father’s story of the Great Cataclysm. He saw the story in a whole new light, now that his own world had been unmade, and nothing could ever restore it to its former beauty, its former innocence.” (1249)
  • At the end of Chapter 15 and on into Chapter 16 how Amos was hunted (we learned) by Mordecai. We learn he is a shifter. Isn’t it true in your own story that there are certain times you have felt hunted?
  • And the achingly beautiful phrase as Amos interacted with Mordecai and drank Miri’s blood: “The hairline fracture in the foundations of his life was broadening. He felt the shifting, the sharing of all he had once held sacred.” (1377)
  • When Wynn basically gave up I was curious what gave her children the gumption to keep going. Interesting that Wynn, Amos, and Phebe chosen different paths as they reacted to Abner’s death. So true in our own complex relational webs.
  • Amos traded “his glory for a bit of power.” (1628) This hit close to home, didn’t it? Thinking of all of those around us who have made similar trades without fully comprehending what they have traded. And then the phrase that having made the trade “he imagined he had never felt better, never been stronger, never seen the world more clearly. He was wrong.”

Skipping ahead, as I reached the end of this section I am reminded how we are in the messy middle of the story. I’m not sure how Rosalyn and Isodle factor in (and that bride stealing? Awful.). Or how Orin is going to claim his place in the Star Clan. Or if Phebe will let Simeon love her.

So many questions! Once again, Helena graciously answered questions I had after reading this section.

How much freedom (and flip side, restraint) did you feel in telling a story with echoes to another, rather familiar story.

The setting or premise for the Shiloh Series is most certainly allegorical. In writing my first draft of Shiloh, I struggled with the idea that I had to do it all–tell the full story of the gospel, get the character of God spot on, etc. It didn’t take long, though, before I regained my sanity and remembered that no one can do that. Even the parables of Jesus, rich as they are, tend to focus on ONE thing at a time. So I took a step back and let the characters run free. There was no purposeful plotting (I don’t plot, anyway) that was designed to parallel the Great Story, apart from the creation story, which establishes the rules and conflicts of their world.

Someone asked me a couple of years ago if escaping the Shadow was my picture of salvation. No. It was not. I think the image is more complex than that. We live in two worlds at once, and while one is full of darkness, it is passing. The other, the eternal realm, the realm of light and freedom and joy, is actually presently available to us. In a final, lasting sense, we are seated at the right hand of God, we are complete in Christ. In a final, lasting sense, we have every need met in Christ. But because one foot is planted firmly in the realm of space-time, we also experience failures and inadequacies, we have needs and unmet desires, we suffer and groan and lack. I believe it is possible to fully mourn these things while at the same time entering into and reveling in all that awaits us beyond this Shadow. In writing Shiloh, I hoped to give the reader a space and context for both.

Well, obviously I’m wrong (or wrong-ish) about Amos and Simeon. Even though Jonathan and David spent big chunks apart from each other, they were always for each other. Interesting to think about how Saul was so very against David, compared to Abner being for Simeon. Still no question in this “question,” just thought you might like to see how my mind is mulling!

Very interesting. I just love the way Simeon blossoms under the care and kindness of Abner and Orin.

How did writing this middle part—where the story is still one of being “unmade”—personally impact you? It is more hard or cathartic to write these parts of the story?

To be perfectly honest, while I ached with the characters in their suffering, I enjoyed writing the difficult passages of these books. For one, I felt that I was being true to their world and also to the experiences of most readers (to some degree or other). Second, I grew up in a world of, a family of, a culture of, secrets. Giving voice to the characters’ pain felt like a holy undertaking to me.

Again, thank you Helena for taking time to share! We appreciate it. 

Last week Helena shared music from Shiloh, this week, she has created a Pinterest board to help visualize the world of Shiloh. (Not everyone wants images to mess with the pictures you have in your head. You know which kind of reader you are!). What themes stood out to you in this section? How you are seeing your own faith from a perspective you haven’t thought of (or at least not in a while)?


P.S. The reading plan for Shiloh

February 14: Chapters 1-12
February 21: Chapters 13-26
February 28: Chapters 27-38 (the end)

Connection Group registration will open tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. EST. You can see the Connection Groups available this year here.


  1. Elizabeth February 21, 2017

    I personally love the fact that there was a creation story — I think we forget how much of a “world” is defined by its creation story ours included 🙂

    And I agree with/am glad Helena describes Shiloh not as a salvation story, but more like a walking-in-the-tension of the light and the dark, of the now and the not yet.

    On my first read-through I was utterly heartbroken by the events of the hunt and by Amos’s later decisions and by their mom’s despair. But then Simeon came out of nowhere and surprised me! The Pollyanna in me wanted Amos and his family to reflect the Light in a unified way, but I know they had to be tested.

    I really love the ending though, so I can’t wait to talk about that next week.

    1. Amy Young February 21, 2017

      Oh that’s a good point Elizabeth — on wanting the family to reflect the Light together. And their mom’s despair was so heart breaking. But I guess it is more realistic this way :).

  2. Ruth February 21, 2017

    As I was reading this week, I was thinking that the Shadow is an image of sin and the effects of sin. So often we think about sins, specific sins, but sin is also like the Shadow, pervasive and touches everything. The way people have light when they are born or have light when they are children also reminds me of how we are created in the image of God. Even in a world corrupted by sin, we are still image bearers of God!

    And other books this reminds me of include Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one ends!

    1. Amy Young February 21, 2017

      Ruth, I also found the idea of “Shadows” to depict the effects of sin so well. How it entangles individuals and the community, restricting us and having us settle for less.

  3. Michele February 21, 2017

    I actually felt the weight in my stomach when I read about Wynn and Amos and how they gave in to despair in their own ways. It’s been a long time since I was actually going, “No, no, no… Don’t do it!” to a character in my mind! I think it was almost too real- How many people have we all watched get caught up in that kind of swirl and struggled to reach with truth? And the idea of being hunted- That Amos was hunted because it was so clear he was chosen for a greater destiny. That seemed so real too- haven’t we all seen someone whom we knew God had great plans for being pursued relentlessly by the deceiver like that? I like that you highlighted those last words of Abner, though, Amy. I think, “There’s more than shadow,” is maybe the most powerful sentence in the book, one I have a feeling I’ll keep saying to myself for years to come.

    1. Amy Young February 21, 2017

      That is it exactly Michele, I physically felt this section too. It was painful reading this and feeling so helpless not to do anything (sign of good writing!).

  4. Rachel February 21, 2017

    It’s a movie not a book (I haven’t read the Star Wars books) – Amos’s switch reminded me of Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side so that he could save Padme’s life. I was also trying to tell Amos not to do it, and I could hear Obiwan in my mind, “You were the chosen one!” Both of them saw the choice as a solution, maybe it even looked like hope to them. But of course, it turned them into agents of the very evil they had been fighting against.

    The river water that makes one forget is haunting me. I had not really thought of forgetfulness as a curse or weapon, but more of an inconvenience. It brings to mind Deut 6 – teach your children these words, bind them on your wrists, write them on the doorposts of your house.

    1. Amy Young February 21, 2017

      Yes!! So much in this book is even reminding me of things I have forgotten, Rachel. The river of forgetfulness. Sigh. But reading this book and then discussing it? I bit of Deut 6 in action :). Thanks for the Star Wars quotes!

      1. Elizabeth February 21, 2017

        On the forgetfulness and the black water — we have an open city sewer here so I see black water all the time, a huge, visual, daily reminder of how I don’t want to drink the waters of forgetfulness! But I do. I know I do. Just last month I saw a spiritual director at a counseling center in Thailand and the basic lesson was: I don’t have any “new” issues, I have all the same old ones that I KNOW the gospel answers to, I just haven’t been applying them. (So encouraging and discouraging all at the same time!) Anyway the point is, I was just forgetting the truth, because I have already learned it, I just need to REMEMBER.

  5. Helena February 23, 2017

    It’s a treat to hear your thoughts on the story and your different reactions to it. I love how God knows us so intimately and personally. He speaks the unique language of each of our hearts, and there is nothing He cannot use to reach us.

    I just finished Frederick Buechner’s Telling Secrets, and he focuses on the power of memory to redeem our past and set us free, to see God at work and meet him in the places of our greatest pain. My memories of my childhood, though, are few and fuzzy, so I feel a bit lost in that. I imagine that stronger, clearer memories would be a powerful avenue to healing, because things you can’t see, can’t name, tend to hold an inordinate amount of power.

    Rachel, as I understand it the ancient Hebrews didn’t use the word “remember” to denote some sort of mental recall. For them, memory always led to action. So, if you wanted to “remember” your wedding, you would do it over again–have a ceremony, invite your friends, hold a feast. I love that kind of proactive approach to memory and the past. Forgetting is the default, the surrender. Remembering is the challenge, the battle, the quest.

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