As part of the “Schoolhouse Review Crew” I was excited to learn that occasionally we are given the opportunity to review books. I received a book called “Sowing Beside All Waters~A Tale of the World in the Church” from “Salem Ridge Press,” a publishing company, established in 2005, which has dedicated itself to “bringing back quality children’s books of the 1800’s and early 1900’s for a new generation of readers” in the form of “living books.”
This piece of historical/church fiction was written by Emma Leslie (1837-1909), whose actual name, according to “Salem Ridge Press,” “was Emma Dixon.” She “was a prolific Victorian children’s author who wrote over 100 books. Emma Leslie brought a strong Christian emphasis into her writing and many of her books were originally published by the Religious Tract Society.” This particular book “Sowing Beside All Waters,” is 264 pages long and was originally published in 1875. It is recommended for readers 12 years old through adults.
The setting of this story is the Roman Empire from 313 to 363 A.D. when the Roman Emperor of that time, Constantine, had just proclaimed Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire. The main characters are the Emperor, Constantine, Quadratus, a devout Christian who is a soldier serving as one of Constantine’s bodyguards, and Placidia, his sister, who has taken her vows to become a nun.
During this time period, though Christianity is the newly proclaimed official religion, there are many who oppose this edict. It is especially opposed by the pagan priests and the Jews. So much so, that the main focus of the story is the kidnapping of Placidia, who had dedicated her life to serving as a nun, by an angry mob of Jews that ransack her hometown and then her very own home. We follow her life as she is sold into slavery, yet is used by God to lead many to Christ.
Placidia believes that Quadratus was killed during the pillaging of their home and her kidnapping by the rioting Jews. Yet Quadratus continues to hold out hope that Placidia is alive, as he valiantly searches for her. We are given a glimpse into a period of time where many new converts to Christianity only did so because it was “politically correct” and had difficulty turning from the idols that they had served for generations. This was so ingrained in so many of them that we see through Placidia’s sister, Melissa, who has married one of these recent converts, that the idols throughout the lavish home of her husband are not removed, but instead given the names of prominent Christian’s which Quadratus warns might be a “prolific source of misconception. I know not what to think about it, many, like Melissa, are anxious to win new converts by any and all means; and concessions are thus made, and old customs retained, that would better be discontinued.”
We are taken back in time to follow Placidia’s journey as a slave which began in Alexandria, up the Nile throughout the deserts of Egypt with Quadratus as he searches for her, to the First Council at Nicea, into Carthage, an important city near Rome, to the holy land of Palestine to gaze upon the top of Mount Calvary, beyond the gates of Antioch until many years later Placidia finally discovers her sister, leading to the knowledge that Quadratus is alive and a final reunion with him as well.
Along this journey we see the turmoil as the pagans and Jews strive to regain power through any means. We have a peek into life at this time. God’s hand at work is intricately woven into the story through the lives of His servants Quadratus and Placidia. This is definitely a book that brings history to life. Many a night I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next to Placidia. Her story became real to me as I experienced life during these ancient times through this living book, “Sowing Beside All Waters.”
I read this book myself, in order to preview it for my 10th grade daughters. With a passion for historical fiction, this book has such an engaging story, yet so much is learned along the way. I really appreciated that though it is written in the language of the day, unfamiliar vocabulary words are defined at the bottom of each page. I can’t wait for them to begin reading it next. I am definitely going to look for more titles from “Salem Ridge Press” to incorporate into our literature based home school, as they list books by time period and location from 1500 B.C. to 1793 A.D., title, author and age range. I highly recommend that if you, too, enjoy using living books to bring learning to life, you ought to check out these spectacular books that “Salem Ridge Press” is bringing to a new generation of readers. “Sowing Beside All Waters” can be purchased in soft cover for $14.95 or hard cover for $24.95. You can even preview Chapter 1 on their website.
~Stepping Back for a Journey Through History~