The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo
Becky Nichols’ early childhood was filled with warmth and love. Her father, a traveling preacher, came to religion late in life and was determined to share the good news with everyone he possibly could. Her mother, who joyfully followed her husband in his travels, thought she might never have children and was extraordinarily grateful when Becky was born, and astoundingly, a boy a few years later. The little family found themselves called to Sellerstown, N.C., a small community in southern North Carolina in need of Pastor Nichols’ fellowship. The people of Sellerstown welcomed the Nichols family with open arms, with one exception.
It wasn’t long before they found themselves being terrorized by a neighbor who wasn’t happy about the changes at the church. Arrogant and confident, he seemed pleased at the chaos he created from his spot in the seventh pew of the church. The level of wrath is truly unbelievable. The family was bombed, threatened, and harassed, with windows exploding into the sleeping baby’s bedroom, yet Pastor and Mrs. Nichols refused to give in and leave. This choice would come to haunt them when their house was invaded by another disgruntled neighbor whose abused wife was seeking refuge with the Nichols’.
The power of tolerance and forgiveness are constant themes throughout the book, and I’m amazed at the ability of this family to withstand such tests with only their faith and their ability to believe in the good in people to hold them up. Even while their family was being pummeled with bombs and firearms, Pastor and Mrs. Nichols comforted their children by telling them that when God wanted them to leave, he would not be sending that message through the Devil. They were not afraid to die for their religion. While I find this frustrating for the children, I’m still incredibly impressed by the strength of their ability to see the good in other people, no matter how they behave. Becky spends the last chapter of the book talking about forgiveness and how, at least for her, it’s not about letting someone else out of prison but about letting HERSELF out of the prison that hatred can create.
I would be remiss not to add that the writing is lovely. Becky has offered a beautiful tribute to her parents and the influence they had on her and many other lives. The Devil in Pew Number Seven would offer great discussion for book clubs!