Amazing Grace


Ever wondered about the author of the classic hymn Amazing Grace?  Or what caused Newton to pen those striking words?

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found…

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection. An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves? Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

Is it too trite to say this was an amazing book?! I really did love it and the author has a remarkable skill of intertwining known facts with fictional story telling. I was thrilled when I finished the book and read the author notes at the back to learn the facts the author had about Newton and where she had “made up” stuff – and to know that most of it “really did happen.”

John Newton is known for writing the song “Amazing Grace.” He’s also known as a slave trader whose life changes when he encounters Christ. But what is not known is how his love for his wife Polly also changes him. This is their story – from the time she meets him when she is just a young teenager. Their love is severely tested as he is an irresponsible young man who gets into lots of trouble – so much so that her parents forbid them to see each other and she decides to forget him.

Although John Newton does make many bad choices in his life, I also felt sorry for him because some of his experiences weren’t really his fault, like his mother dying when he was a young lad. And, unfortunately, he perceived that his father did not love him, causing him to have a bad boy attitude: “The truth was he’d never been good enough for his father or for any sort of God. He’d always fallen short in pleasing them both. Being a Christian had been too difficult…If God existed, he’d abandoned him just as his father had done.”

But as Newton goes through physical trials, Polly goes through more mental trials – she loves John and doesn’t want another but “At almost nineteen, Polly was the oldest girl at Mrs. Overing’s… ‘It’s time for you to settle on a young man. If you don’t find one now, you’ll end up a spinster.’ The word spinster sent shudders through all the young ladies every time Mrs. Arabella Manly mentioned it.” Would John return?  Would he ever become a man acceptable in the eyes of her father?

What a love story and story of transformation!  Newton’s “heart opened wide with the need to acknowledge not only the existence of God but also the existence of a merciful and loving God.”  The author at the end says, “I hope (this story) reminds you that there is a God who loves you. Unconditionally. No matter where you’ve been. Or what you’ve done. He will always love you and welcome you home.” And isn’t that the truth – especially seen in the life of John Newton! I highly recommend “Newton and Polly”! I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

PS To see how much you do know about John Newton and his wife Polly, take this quick quiz –