A sweeping family saga, Christiane Banks’ Amelia’s Prayer is an engrossing and emotional story that spans decades and generations.
Sebastian and Amelia meet in 1941 at a dance held for soldiers and sailors in her hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne, where Sebastian’s ship was temporarily docked. Immediately infatuated with one another, they fall in love and are soon married in a whirlwind ceremony. Sebastian must leave for duty right after, but when he returns, they settle into family life in Sebastian’s beloved France. Amelia is unhappy there, and they eventually return to her hometown in England, but Sebastian’s resentment over the move permanently colors the relationship.
Over the years, Amelia gives birth to nine children, although only eight will survive. Amelia, Sebastian, and the children suffer financial, physical, and emotional hardships, including death and infidelity. Their story is a richly woven tapestry that clearly illustrates the joys and sorrows of raising a large family and nurturing a troubled marriage.
The story does not belong completely to Amelia and Sebastian, however. Cleverly, Banks adds great depth by giving equal focus to the children’s perspectives and experiences, flawlessly weaving their views into the narrative. The story of one of the daughters, Abby, takes up much of the final pages and is particularly captivating.
The author manages the tale’s pacing perfectly; she covers several decades without the story ever feeling rushed or belabored. In addition, the settings are beautifully described and realized, never overshadowing the plot or characters. Occasionally, the dialogue can feel wooden and unnaturally formal, but that’s easily overlooked. Overall, this is a well-written exploration of love, relationships, heartbreak, tragedy, happiness, death, and hope; an honest and thoughtful portrait of what it’s like to be a family.
With engaging characters, powerful emotion, and a fully realized story, Amelia’s Prayer will appeal to fans of family sagas, although it easily transcends the genre.
Also available in hardcover.