The Invisible Sentence by Verna McFelin

When I started reading The Invisible Sentence, my expectations for it were very different to the book that I actually read. I had imagined that it would be a book describing in detail the difficulties that the author and her family experienced when her husband was convicted and spent time in prison. It is this, but to a much lesser extent than the synopsis suggests.

Verna McFelin is by all accounts a remarkable woman; firstly, in how she kept herself and her family together in the face of adversity and judgement. She faced years of trying to keep them all fed with a roof over their heads with no idea where money or sustenance would come from but it did, successfully. She then went on to found an organisation called Pillars in New Zealand which continues to this day to provide support for families with convicted family members and for which she has received well-deserved plaudits.

It must have been an incredibly hard time but I found that it is described in its very basic terms. McFelin advises the reader on the sorts of things that were experienced like bullying at school and how her daughter became wayward at the age of twelve and resorted to drugs but I did not feel that the story surrounding herself and her family ever really came alive for me. As a reader, you are told about it but I never really felt it and I think this is in part because the book deals with specific incidents very generally and is limited in its exploration of family relationships and tensions and the external pressures that must have affected them all on a daily basis.

However, what does get more dedicated time in the book and is very much brought alive through McFelin’s memories is how strong her faith is and how she has an incredibly close relationship to God. It is also rather unique and McFelin’s encounters with God and her reliance on His wisdom and guidance to get her through her toughest years are miraculous.

For people with a deep spirituality and faith, then this will be a book which will stay with you forever, strengthening beliefs and providing hope and comfort. However, as a memoir about a family surviving hardship, it skims the surface of the experience and left me wanting the human element rather than the spiritual.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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