George Fox is portrayed by author Jane Yolen as an intense young man in a time of religious & political upheaval. He was a 'militant pacifist' (an oxymoron?) when state religions were see-sawing in prominence. Kings & prime ministers fought for power, and the uneasiness among all levels of society helps explain the proliferation of religious sects in the 1600s. Cynical, cruel laws were passed to 'excuse' the jailing of believers outside the state-church-of-the-moment. Hundreds, including families with children, endured hideous prison conditions for their beliefs.
Fox became a magnet for the many people known as *tender* seekers for spiritual Truth. He had a certain pride that Yolen claims was "a fault shared with many Old Testament prophets"! The ministry of George Fox was an odd sort at first, according to the author. It consisted "of solitary walks, fasting, mournful midnight wanderings, and hours in hollow trees with his Bible." He had an uncompromising nature. His preaching was rustic, yet compelling; William Penn later said Fox used "rough, uneducated words."
George Fox had 'discovered' silence while shepherding in the Leicestershire hills in his youth over 350 years ago. The very essence of Quakerism is his concept of the Inner Light: "I live, yet not I, but Christ in me."
"What Spirit invades?
The Silence becomes thunderous.
Why, speaking, do I quake?" (mcH)
People listened to Fox preach for hours; in fact, Jane Yolen includes more mention of his preaching than of the silence central to the Quaker way of worshiping. Poet John Whittier later described Quaker meetings as "syllabled by silence."
The author covers thoroughly the growth of the 'movement' and organization, their missionary efforts in America, and long-term impact of "the Religious Society of Friends" & its compassionate arm, the American Friends Service Committee. The days of *threshing meetings* seem so very long ago! At these gatherings the 'elders' attempted to "separate the wheat (those who could receive the Quaker Truth) from the chaff (those who could not)"!
Adult readers of "Friend: The Story of George Fox & the Quakers" will be more patient with the many repetitions than young students are apt to be. Yet all will benefit from the author's solid research, and sympathetic telling of an involved story about a person with extreme eccentricities. Few authors have 'tackled' this subject since the publication of Jane Yolen's book. Reviewer mcHAIKU urges you to read this young adult biography of a great spiritual leader, and concurs with William Penn's assessment that "GEORGE FOX WAS AN ORIGINAL, BEING NO MAN'S COPY."