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Book Review: The Silver and the Cross by Kathleen Mulroy

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In today’s somewhat careless world where religion is concerned, if you are looking for a book that will restore your faith in an Almighty Transcendent Being who hears prayers and becomes personally involved in the lives of earthly creatures, then Kathleen Mulroy’s The Silver and the Cross is for you. This is a book of spirited faith that remains undaunted in spite of any number of obstacles including the hassle of non-believers.

In 1890, Leora Brown and her minister father have relocated from thriving Boston to a small town looking for a minister for their church. The dusty remote town is Wallace in Idaho Territory, which hopes to soon become one with the United States. The people of Wallace have been holding religious ceremonies in a local store because a church has never been built. The primary occupation of Wallace’s male population is to search for silver on their own or to work for a silver mining company.

Leora is used to a different lifestyle, coming from sophisticated Bostonian society. Now she lives in a dusty town filled with miners and their wives and their children. So often, in The Silver and the Cross, author Mulroy describes the stench of Wallace’s seething streets where horse and donkey dung foul the senses, possibly only second to the smell of dirty and sweaty male miners.

At first, Leora is fearful of miners, who leer at her beauty and sophisticated dress. She appears intelligent and well bred, characteristics not often seen by uneducated miners. Early in the story, a smelly miner attempts to accost her to satisfy both his own male ego and his machismo before a group of men who are walking to their mine. Only by the direct intercession of Mr. Edward Lycroft is Leora saved from manhandling by this band of rowdy men.

Edward is a foreman in a nearby silver mine. Immediately he becomes infatuated by Leora and is disgruntled to learn her father is a Christian preacher. On the other hand, she is troubled by Edward's claim he does not believe in an Almighty — an agnostic at best, an atheist at least. Yet, she feels herself magnetically drawn to this educated Englishman and he to her.

Leora knows her religious convictions are her life. God means everything. God is her reason for being. Afterall, she moved from Massachusetts to Wallace to help her father set up what would become The First Methodist Church in the town. Thus, she cannot allow her emotions to center on this non-believing fool. If anything, she pities Edward and prays for his soul to shield him from eternal damnation.

Edward Lycroft finds he cannot stay distant from Leora. He deliberately makes opportunities so their paths cross. While her religion may be a hindrance to love, nevertheless, he seeks her companionship whenever possible. The friendship between the two grows. Edward fascinates Leora because of his honesty, good nature, and charitable deeds toward others. When he interacts with his workmen, he does so with respect and decency. He seems to have their best interest at heart.

Edward finally confesses his love. He wants "to grow old" with Leora. He wants to have a home and children with her. He promises he will not interfere in any way with her religion. Traumatized by his declaration and broken-hearted, Leora turns away. She refuses to love a man who does not love her God.

What will happen across this vast chasm between Edward and Leora is the magic behind the well chosen words of Kathleen Mulroy in The Silver and the Cross. Can these two lovers find some compromise or will each finally go a separate way comforted that God’s will be done?

This book is a short quick read. It should provide satisfying inspiration for those who feel God’s presence in their everyday lives. It might also show persons without faith how comforting a belief in the Almighty can be. Not everyone is comfortable placing their trust in a personal God, but Leora and Edward’s dilemma is surely food for thought.

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