Synopsis: Nadine Von Keller’s early life was quiet and protected. She chafed against this lifestyle, and as a young adult finally decided to take things into her own hands. Unfortunately, her attempt at gaining independence has left her far from home, alone, and pregnant. She understandably struggles with what to do next, and finally begins teaching piano lessons in a desperate attempt to support herself. Soon Nadine learns that there is more to the world and people around her than she ever thought, and the One who made it all also has a plan for her life.
This is the third book by Julia David that I have read, and I am hooked! Black Coat is the third (and I believe final) book in the Mighty One series, just published in April 2018. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series, Burgundy Gloves and Broken Chain, I encourage you to read those first. It is not absolutely necessary, but the characters and situation make more sense in the intended context. The series is set in the American Midwest in the late 1800’s, and balances a pleasant reading experience with meaningful commentary on Christianity and several of its motifs.
The overarching theme of the Mighty One series is redemption, which is generally an underrated topic in contemporary literature as a whole. Each book focuses on a set of characters who are far from perfect, but through both everyday and extraordinary situations they discover the perfect God who holds all things together, including their fragile lives. Julia David does a wonderful job creating multi-dimensional characters (you can read about this in my earlier reviews of her books), unique but believable situations, and hitting on topics that affect everyone.
There is also a sweet romance in each story, and I strongly appreciate the fact that while the romance is central to each plot, it is not the sole focus. The love interests in the books do not save the protagonist: God does that. Additionally, there are other friendships and appropriate relationships displayed in each story, showing that romance is not the only or most important relationship. Family, friends, and theology can and should sometimes take priority. However, romantic relationships can also be a (admittedly flawed and incomplete) demonstration of the spiritual relationship we ought to cultivate with God. Nadine’s ultimate love interest is not her savior, but he acts Christlike. Neither he nor any other human can be sufficient for her every need, but he is willing to take on her burdens insofar as he is able.
Julia David knows how to write a beautiful story. Not only are the themes and deeper meaning of her books good for the heart, but the story is engaging as well. Nadine’s story is more gut-wrenching than either of the previous books in the series, but as a whole it is still pleasant to read. There is a balance of disappointment and support rather than a continual string of unfortunate things. If you have a single sympathetic bone in your body, be prepared for this to pull at your heart strings, but know that when things go wrong there is always a heartwarming turn coming soon.
I also appreciate that Nadine’s poor choices are not downplayed at all throughout Black Coat. Obviously she does not have the best judgement or track record of making good decisions, and that does not go away for the sake of the plot. There are consequences to her childish, selfish, and thoughtless behavior. However, as I said earlier, this is a story of redemption, so the immediate consequences are not the end of the story. When Nadine is mature enough to admit her weaknesses and start thinking about others rather than only herself, she is able to grow and become more than what her mistakes would make her. Forgiveness is just as important as instruction, and respect from those around her leads Nadine to develop responsibility.
None of this would be possible without people in Nadine’s life who speak truth and live out the Gospel. Just like in the ‘real’ world, it is through God’s work in Nadine’s life that she finally finds lasting value and satisfaction. As her relationship with Him improves, so does her ability to respect and relate to others. All of her problems are not solved, but she no longer has to deal with them alone. This story is a beautiful depiction of what the Gospel truly means, without any obvious preaching or theological jargon.
In sum, Black Coat is a wonderful addition to the Mighty One series. I continue to love Julia David’s writing and the stories she composes, and I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys historical fiction or Christian fiction to check it out! If you have read any of her books, feel free to comment on this post and tell me what you thought; I would love to talk more about this series with anyone who has read all or part of it.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.