Tag: helena sorenson (page 1 of 1)

The Shiloh Series

We live in a world blighted by sin. This past year, we’ve seen startling markers of it: the day I first drove downtown last spring and saw the shops closed and the streets empty, I felt it. This is not how it was meant to be. But even on a day like that, when everything felt marred and twisted, I could hear chickadees calling and could look up and see cirrus clouds curling in the upper realms of the sky. The sun rose over the bay, enlivening our stilled city with its light.

But in Shiloh, the brokenness of the world is evident all the time, from any vantage point. The villages are ensconced in the Shadow, a darkness so palpable that the sky scarcely lightens even at midday. Most villagers have no memory of the sun; they do not believe it exists. But Amos’s father believes and, though ridiculed for it, he remembers: This is not how it was meant to be. Unlike most of his neighbors, he refuses to believe that the Shadow is all there is.

The Shiloh Series, by Helena Sorenson | Little Book, Big Story

Helena Sorenson’s story begins in the dark, and it is a heavy tale, one that is honest about the damage of sin and the havoc it wreaks in our hearts. Her characters go on grueling journeys through the darkness of Shiloh, but the story is, as the back of the book promises, one of courage and hope: she brings the story to a glorious conclusion.

There is much to love about these books, but I was particularly enthralled by the mythology behind the land of Shiloh. The stories of the world’s creation and of the coming of the shadow gave me a sense that the world extended beyond the borders of the story, and that there were other stories happening in this world that hadn’t yet been told. This is something we need to hear often: in our world, too, there are stories still being told. God hasn’t finished with us yet.

The Shiloh series
Helena Sorenson (2013)

The Door on Half-Bald Hill

Some books give you a lot of information upfront. This story is happening in Missouri, they say. And here’s what the main character looks like, down to the mole on her left cheek—and here’s how she feels about that mole. Here are all her thoughts on school and, come on in, come meet every member of her immediate family, all in the first two chapters.

But not The Door on Half-Bald Hill. I was several chapters into this book before I felt like I had a real handle on who was narrating, what was happening, what this world was even like. I felt as though Helena Sorenson had grabbed my hand, said, “You need to see this!,” and swept me straight into a pitch-black cave. I didn’t know where we were going, but I learned right away that I trusted her as a storyteller. I was willing to follow, to see what she had planned.

The Door on Half-Bald Hill, by Helena Sorenson | Little Book, Big Story

By the end of the book, that narrow cave opened up into a cavern filled with phosphorescent wonders, and I promise to drop the metaphor now. Let me just say that Sorenson knew all along where she was going; she knew the wait would be worth the reward. Set on an island rather Celtic in atmosphere, about people who have lost much and are slowly losing what little they have left, Sorenson tells a story of hope in the face of oppressive darkness, light in the face of a swiftly falling night.

The Door on Half-Bald Hill, by Helena Sorenson | Little Book, Big Story

My daughter, already a fan of Sorenson’s Shiloh books, read The Door on Half-Bald Hill and gave me that glowy you-have-to-read-this-you’ll-love-it look when she finished. She was right. I loved it. You can’t see me, but I’m making that face now, at you.

Of Note

Helena Sorenson’s essay on how she built the world of this book is fascinating. I commend it to readers and writers alike.

The Door on Half-Bald Hill
Helena Sorenson (2020)