Strangers and Sojourners is a story about the search for home and the true meaning of home. It follows the life of Anne Kingsley (Ashton) Delaney from England, where she is an educated and cultured woman, to the First World War as a battlefield nurse, and then to “untamed” Canada where a year of teaching children turns to a lifetime of love and longing as Anne searches for and discovers the meaning of home (and love and faith).
Within that story, Strangers and Sojourners is a beautiful novel of faith and of the struggle and ache of unbelief that fades and falls when we find faith in love and life. The novel is very slow-paced, intentionally, which reflects the Anne Delaney’s gradual procession from unbelief to faith in her struggle to understand the mystery of human existence. This is not an action packed novel that will keep the reader of the edge of their seat—and it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to move methodically along the path of Anne Delaney’s life and allow the reader to ruminate alongside Anne Delaney on the bigger philosophical questions of life amid the reality of daily life in Twentieth Century Canada. It’s a good read that’s not meant for a quick skim, but a ponderous examination.
Michael O’Brien does a great job at capturing real emotions in his characters, especially here in describing Anne Delaney. While some readers may find her hesitancy, and later, insecurities, unsettling and hard to overlook, there is a reward that comes with persistence. I found Strangers and Sojourners to be more realistic, and less of a fairy tale which may be off-putting to readers searching for the immediate gratification of a painless happily ever after. All in all, Strangers and Sojourners is a moving depiction of human life and the fight for faith.