[Note: this review is of the original version of this book, which has now been revised and rereleased. For the review of the 2020 edition, click here.]
Eye of the Storm, by Janice L. Dick (Herald Press, 2003)
In Eye of the Storm, we follow the characters from Calm Before the Storm through the years 1917-1919. A less compassionate author would overwhelm readers with the cruelty and horror of this part in Russian Mennonite history.
The story centres on the fictional Hildebrandt family, but gives glimpses of historical figures like Trotsky and Lenin – and the execution of Tsar Nicholas’ family. At times the sense of growing tragedy made me put the book aside until the next day, but the characters always drew me back.
Rich in historical and cultural details, the book opens a window into the suffering of both rich and poor – and the faith of the Russian Mennonites. The Mennonite landowners experience raids on their property and possessions, but their faith calls them to a peaceful life. Some choose to learn self-defence, but family head Heinrich Hildebrandt cannot reconcile this with his beliefs. He removes all weapons from his estate, “that I might not be tempted.” Whatever the reader’s personal beliefs on pacifism, this book brings the agony of the Russian Mennonites’ choice to life.
It also demonstrates the struggle to keep hope and live by faith when the world is falling apart. Although the characters usually come to decisions in line with the tenets of their faith, it is never trite or without serious wrestling.
I’m glad I picked up books two and three of the series together – the ending of Eye of the Storm is the beginning of a new adventure, and I can’t wait too long to discover how things work out.
To learn more about the series, or for an overview of Russian Mennonite history and some authentic Mennonite recipes, visit the author’s website.