The Silence of God by Gale Sears is no ordinary novel. It is historical fiction at its best.
Set in Russia during the early twentieth century, when World War I raged in Europe, the Tsar was deposed in Russia, and the Bolsheviks rose to power, this novel is based on the events surrounding the only LDS family in all of vast Russia – Johan and Alma Lindlof and their eight children.
The book opens in 988 A.D. with a prologue telling the story of Prince Vladimir and his bride, Anna, arriving in Kiev to introduce Christianity to the vast empire he rules. It then moves forward almost a thousand years to the excitement the Lindlof family experiences centuries later, when Elder Francis Marion Lymon arrives in St. Petersburg to open that great land to the Gospel.
Elder Lyman quotes a little-known statement by Joseph Smith that states, “The vast empire of Russia was attached to some of the most important things concerning the advancement and building up of the kingdom of God in these last days.”
Johan is a successful silversmith and jeweler. His work provides a comfortable living for his family. All seems to be going well until most of the children reach adulthood or late teens, then two of the sons are sent to the Russian front to fight with the Russian army against Germany in that brutal confrontation.
Agnes, the oldest daughter, and her best friend Natasha Ivanovna Gavrilova, have been friends since earliest childhood, but now differences of political views begins to raise questions between them, yet their friendship remains firmly rooted. One shared pastime remains the same; they love riddles and spend their time devising intricate riddles to stump the other.
Natasha, a gifted writer, rises in importance in the Bolshevik movement while the Lindlof family is abused and part of the family is sent to Siberia because of their small amount of wealth and their affiliation with an American religion. The tsar’s family is massacred and God is banished from Russian life.
This is a powerful story of ideals pushed to extremes that eliminate personal agency. It is a story of extreme cruelty and tremendous sacrifices. Readers cannot help being touched by friendships and loyalties that stretch beyond ideology and even the will to survive. Family, faith, and enduring friendships are poignant reminders of humanity at its best.
Over the years a picture of Russian peasants has grown that depicts them as slow, uneducated, coarse, and a bit stupid. This book dispels that myth and portrays them as stronger, better people than their own government supposes. It also delves into the rich myths and fairytales of a much earlier Russia that survived communism in spite of the government’s efforts to wipe out folklore along with religion.
Sears has done a magnificent job of telling an epic story without confusing the reader with too many point-of-view characters or losing the story with confusing time jumps. The principal characters are well-developed and the reader can feel with them as they grow and mature or deteriorate into lesser persons. The author has developed a powerful plot that stays within a rigid time frame without editorializing, downplaying terrible events, or over-dramatizing them. The plot is compelling and keeps the reader “reading just one more page.”
I love having the footnotes at the end of each chapter instead of at the back of the book. For me, this style is more readable, though some people feel it interrupts the story. Readers like me read grand historicals with an eye toward placing the story within the context of actual events; we love these tidbits as the story progresses and find when they’re lumped together at the end, they lose their pertinence.
I give this book my highest recommendation, not only because it is a well told story that brings the reader to tears at certain points, but because it adds to our store of knowledge concerning a huge portion of God’s children, and because there are tragic similarities all around the world today and even in America to the efforts of many to incorporate Satan’s plan instead of God’s into the lives of this world’s inhabitants.
The author, Gale Sears, is an award-winning author, known for her historical accuracy and intensive research. She received degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Minnesota.
An interesting sidelight to The Silence of God is the announcement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that on August 29, 2010, the Kyiv Ukraine Temple will be dedicated.
This temple stands just a short distance from where Prince Vladimir first introduced Christianity to Russia.
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The Silence of God by Gale Sears, published by Deseret Book, hardcover, 400 pages