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The Hardest Thing to Do (The Hawk and the Dove) Paperback – July 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“When I reached the last page of The Hardest Thing to Do, I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace. Abbot John and his monks are not the only ones whose hearts and lives are ripe for change; Penelope Wilcock’s legion of readers may find themselves altered as well. Mercy, grace, and forgiveness are woven throughout the story with a deft hand, as we meet a community of God’s faithful servants who are genuinely flawed yet always sympathetic. The descriptive passages are poetic, and the medieval details evocative, with a rich sense of time and place. I offer my highest praise and most heartfelt recommendation: you will love this novel!”
Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times best-selling author, Mine is the Night and Bad Girls of the Bible

“Penelope Wilcock has written a novel as deep and contemplative as the monks whose stories she tells. Her intimate knowledge of medieval monastic life sweeps you into the past, yet the struggles she chronicles are timeless. This book is not toss-away entertainment; it’s literature that pours from a poetic soul. Putting it down at the end of the day was the hardest thing to do.”
Bryan M. Litfin, Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute; author, The Sword, The Gift, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers

“Beautiful, profound, moving, and spiritual, this book is written out of the deep well that is Penelope Wilcock. As the reader is drawn to live in the ancient monastery of St. Alcuin and share the daily challenges of the community struggling to receive the grace of God and bring it into their world, each one of us comes to ask: 'What is the hardest thing to do?' and, 'Can I do this, with God's help?'”
Donna Fletcher Crow, author, Glastonbury: The Novel of Christian England and The Monastery Murders

“James the apostle wrote that ‘mercy triumphs over judgement,’ but some of the brothers of St. Alcuin’s Abbey find vengenance more satisfying than forgiveness in Wilcock’s delightful tale of medieval monastic life. The Hardest Thing to Do is wonderfully accurate to time and place, and perceptive in its treatment of the strife which can afflict even the people of God.”
Mel Starr, author, The Unquiet Bones, A Corpse at St. Andrew’s Chapel, and A Trail of Ink 

"I am encouraged that your new book will be released soon—it's like the promise of spring to me—something precious to hold in my heart until the day comes."
Dorothy Bode, mother to eleven (so far...), Minneapolis, Minnesota

About the Author

Penelope Wilcock is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, including The Hawk and the Dove trilogy. She lives a quiet life on the southeast coast of England with her husband and is the mother of five children.


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Product Details

  • Series: The Hawk and the Dove (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (July 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433526557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433526558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

My aim in writing is to make goodness attractive. I love simple human kindness and gentleness, and I am moved by human vulnerability. I am fascinated by the power that is within our grasp to lift one another up, to heal and strengthen and encourage each other - our power to bless.
In the novels I write, I think of the reader sitting down to enjoy a book, the door of their imagination open wide to allow the story in to influence and shape their spirit. I accept the responsibility that confers as a great privilege, and it is my intention that when you put down any book of mine at the end of reading it, you will feel hopeful, peaceful and comforted, more ready to look on your fellow human beings with compassion and see their point of view.
I live in the English town on Hastings, on East Sussex's south coast. I write a blog called Kindred of the Quiet Way.
I would like to encourage you who are reading this to take the trouble to review on Amazon the books you read - as a reader I find customer reviews immensely helpful in making up my mind whether to purchase a book, and as a writer I find readers' reviews so valuable as feedback and food for thought.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mimi on October 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
Set in 14th-century England, in a monastery which until recently was headed by a most beloved man, Father John is overwhelmed and humbled by his new responsibilities as abbot. He has served in the infirmary for many years before becoming abbot, and so has cultivated the attributes of kindness and mercy more than most men. He will need both as a man from another monastery, one known for its cruelty and arrogance, has fled from his burnt-out monastery and the hatred of the community to find asylum in their walls. The difficulty lies in the fact that that man, William, and the previous abbot were enemies. William had humiliated Father Peregrine and used him to assert his selfish will. Now he is needing to ask for mercy from those who love the good Father but he has yet to shed his pride and arrogance. Can the good brothers find a way to forgive him and extend mercy to him?
The only thing that kept this from being a 5-star review was that the language didn't always fit the era. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the 14th century.
Written in a gently spiritual way, with interesting characters, this book will appeal to those who like books such as Jan Karon's Mitford series. It is deceptively short, being only 245 pages long but requiring more time to read because of thought-provoking comments. There is no rushing through this book. I highly recommend reading the Hawk and the Dove trilogy first.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Catkin92 on July 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
'The Hardest Thing To Do' is the fourth masterpiece in a series of spiritually moving novels that portray the working, religious and, most poignant, community life of the brothers at St Alcuin.
This novel sees the brothers faced with a morally up heaving decision as they debate whether or not to admit an enemy Prior into their abbey.
With most of the brothers bandying for justice, the onus lies with the newly appointed Abbot John to hold out for mercy for the sake, not only of the maimed and despised wolf, but also for the peace and composure of his flock of brothers as they journey through the turmoil and anguish of the hardest thing to do; knowing the right thing to do.

Penelope Wilcock's novels flow with a poetry and symbolism that soothes and calms the reader the instant the book is opened. The gentle, though challenging life of the monks, set against the rugged beauty of the English moors, makes the reader forget the troubles and demands of daily life as they become absorbed, transformed and left thoroughly refreshed. Dipping into a novel of Penelope Wilcock's is like sliding into a cool river on a burning summer's day; it provides relief, comfort, and most of all, peace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By iiiireader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Hardest Thing To Do (The Hawk and the Dove" is the first book I have read by Penelope Wilcock. At first, I thought it might be difficult to read a book in the middle of a series, then I thought it would be hard to care about monks living in a monastery, and finally I thought it might be a book primarily for Catholics - which I am not. Then I simply read the book and stopped thinking about anything other than what a beautifully written story it actually is.

It is a story about forgiveness and doing the "hardest thing to do". Interestingly, the hardest thing seems to change from person to person and from event to event. What I took away in the end, was that the hardest thing to do is the thing that your heart tells you is the right thing to do but which your head tells you that you don't want to do. In the midst of reading the book, I actually had a moment in my life where I had a "hard thing to do". Because of the story I was reading, I was able to get my heart and head in perspective and to do the right thing in spite of myself! It is a profound moment in life when a novel influences you so strongly.

It turned out to be a very easy book to read in the middle of the series. I might have missed some nuances but if so, I wasn't aware of a lack. I plan to read the earlier books in the series very soon. Again, the story about monks turned out really to be a story about every man or woman... they just happened to be in a monastery. While I did not understand some of the religious significance of some of the story (not being Catholic), it was not an issue for me as the story was so compelling.

I hope that anyone who shares my initial concerns will be influenced by my review - this is simply not a story to be missed. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christina R. Moore on August 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Penelope Wilcock's new novel, The Hardest Thing to Do, rejoins the brothers of St. Alcuin's abbey to prayer walk day by day through the transitional season of Lent. This Lent proves unusually hard and unusually transitional as the community learns the ways of their new abbot and he learns to be himself in a new obedience.

Over the course of the book we learn "the hardest thing to do" for a number of the brothers, each in their turn. Some of the things are humorous, some mundane, some substantial and serious. The hardest "hardest thing," however, spans the length of the book and challenges the very soul of the community.

What is that hardest thing? To forgive.

An earlier book in The Hawk and the Dove series described the cruel humiliation of the beloved Father Peregrine at the hands of the prior of another monastery. Brother Tom, Father Peregrine's personal attendant, felt the offense at least as keenly as his abbot and responded with characteristic passion and impetuosity.

The new novel unites Brother Tom with the prior who insulted his beloved (now departed) mentor, but in this meeting the balance of power has reversed and Tom and his brethren are confronted with a choice. Will they nourish resentment and turn away a man in profound need, or will they allow God to transform them for and through the hard thing of forgiveness?

As the narrative unfolds, the reader experiences the contagious, destructive effect of even a single person's choice of resentment and also the taste of resurrection transformation resulting from even one person's openness to forgive. The emotional impact of both did not entirely surprise me, having experienced that in the earlier stories, but the breadth of the change effected did.
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