Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Michael Phillips's Angel Harp ~ Reviewed

By Michael Phillips
Published by Faith Words
ISBN# 978-0-446-56771-8
464 Pages

Back Cover:

Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40, that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?


I devoured the Shenandoah Sisters series Michael Philips wrote, so I was anxious to receive a review copy of Angel Harp. I couldn’t wait to see the adventure Michael Phillips would take me on next. I love how this author develops his characters and lets the reader know them inside and out. I also enjoy how Michael, who has a second home in Scotland, was able to show the reader this country with fresh eyes. I was amazed at how he captured the innocence of experiencing this country for the first time. Michael is also gifted in how he writes believably from a female point of view. Marie is the main character I enjoyed getting to know and felt her struggle. The author let me know her from her deepest parts of heart and mind. Marie’s life’s been on hold since her husband died, and was going nowhere. As her birthday approaches she reflects on her life and decides to start living it. She didn’t want to give up on her dreams; she finally desired to make them happen. Marie realizes, “When you let your dream die...you don’t only lose the dream...you stop dreaming altogether.”

Marie sets out on her dream trip to Scotland. She gets off a bus in a small town that catches her eye and starts walking until she finds a place to spend the night, determined to set out on foot to discover the land and its people in the morning. She is also on a mission to find the perfect place to play her harp and be one with the land.

Marie plays her harp in a beautiful park and meets the most amazing girl named Gwendolyn. She’s 12 years old and is captivated by the harp Marie is playing. Gwendolyn is drawn to Maria and her music, but her aunt doesn’t want her to talk to strangers. Marie has experience teaching children to play the harp, so when Gwendolyn says she loves the music and the harp; Marie offers to instruct her on how to play. Marie gives the harp and a quick lesson to Gwendolyn and watches in amazement. She can’t believe her ears, it’s absolutely magical. She has never seen anyone play the harp like this without training, it was astounding.

Marie has a plan to stay in Scotland longer than she’d thought. She has a purpose. She wants to teach Gwendolyn play on her harp every day if she could. She wanted to bring joy into this girl’s life and watch her talents bloom and grow.

Marie then meets Pastor Iain Barclay. He hears her play the harp which gets them talking about spiritual matters and how music stirs the soul. Iain talks about a personal relationship with Jesus, something she knew nothing about. He tells her, "Life is a Journey, a quest for truth and understanding...God is in the business of waking people up. It’s all about finding truth, walking in integrity, becoming who we’re meant to be, discovering who God is. Those are the things that matter.”

Word gets around about Marie’s music and Alashdair, the Duke, requests her to play for him at the Castle. Alashdair says to her later, “Your music sparked something in me that I had not felt for many years, maybe that I had never felt…I thought I had never heard anything so lovely, so peaceful, so haunting…It made me both sad and happy at once…All these thoughts rushed though me in an instant. Your music forced me to confront myself…”

Maria’s love for music and her ability to express herself through music is a gift everyone in this small community wanted to be part of. Maria starts to feel alive and fall in love with this town and its' people - people who aren’t afraid to tell her what’s on their mind. Love always brings complications. Marie finds her life has taken an unbelievable turn playing for Duke’s in castles and also in a beautiful church setting. Maria must decide the direction her life should go and where she will spend it. She has tough choices and the reader feels her anguish and start rooting for her.

Once again I was whisked away into Michael Phillips world with a story that spoke to my spirit and touched my heart in so many ways. Michael knows relationships and how the power of God can move in peoples hearts like no one else can. This author has a way of describing music, how it moves the human spirit in a special way and can change lives like the spoken word can’t. I enjoyed the characters and their struggle. I loved the complexity of the situation and how God provides a way when there seems to be no way out. It was a treat to read this novel and get to know these unforgettable characters I grew to love and wanted to hang out with long after the book ended. I felt my soul refreshed. You will too.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

The Book Club Network

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