Letters to Saint Lydia

Length: 4 hrs and 37 mins
5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Lydia's life is turning upside down. Her family has converted to Orthodox Christianity without her, she's just about to leave home for college, one of her friends is pregnant, and soon she'll be facing all the trials and temptations encountered by every young adult who is on her own for the first time. Lydia needs a friend badly and she finds one in the most unexpected place: an icon of St. Lydia. Young Lydia pours out her troubles in letters to St. Lydia, who (invisibly to Lydia) answers, guiding her through her time of troubles with deep love and compassion.

©2012 Melinda Johnson (P)2019 Melinda Johnson

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    4 out of 5 stars

Lovely Little Book

I don't know what I was expecting from this book. I certainly wasn't expecting to be schooled in the journey of my faith or about how to build relationships with my family and my peers, with a saint and, by extension, with Christ.

Lydia is a high school senior heading to university whose entire world has been turned on its head by her family's conversion to Orthodoxy. She's not even sure she believes in God and now her entire family has--very suddenly as far as Lydia is concerned--developed faith, found a place to worship that is completely foreign, gotten baptized, and begun a new life. Lydia was not ready. She feels betrayed and awkward. Out of place in her own home. Her mother gives her an icon of St Lydia and Lydia decides to write letters to the saint. The book is a series of these eponymous Letters to St. Lydia. Unbeknownst to Lydia, St. Lydia writes her back.

I enjoyed this book greatly. I have been through that awkward stage of not knowing who I am and where I fit, just recently. It's a recurring theme in my life, to be honest. It's not a fun place to be and so I related a lot to Lydia and her moment by moment groping toward faith and toward Orthodoxy as an expression of that faith. Little baby steps, questioning, contemplating, even becoming angry or sad or frightened are all parts of the journey toward God. The point is to keep moving and not to stop.

This book is a gentle reminder that we do not have to travel this road alone. That the universe isn't divided into what Fr Stephen Freeman calls a "two-story universe". The universe is one plane with two stages of existence, the Church Militant, those of us striving toward salvation, and the Church Triumphant, the great Cloud of Witnesses referred to in Hebrews 12:1. Just because we cannot see into or are unaware of that part of the totality of existence that is here alongside us doesn't mean it is not there or that those members of the Church Triumphant are similarly unaware of us and of the things that trouble us or bring us joy. St. Lydia's responses to Lydia's letters attest, albeit in a fictional way, to the great love they have for us which is a reflection of the great love God the Holy Trinity has for us.

It is a Mystery. And that is okay. It is okay not to understand it. Not to "get" it. As the song goes, "When we've been there ten thousand years/Bright shining as the sun/We've no less days to sing God's praise/Than when we first begun".

4 stars

Full Disclosure: I was given an Audible credit to purchase this book in return for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to do this, AFP

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A great listen for adults and teens!

Letters to Saint Lydia is a lovely coming of age drama with just enough drama to keep it interesting. It highlights a wonderful relationship between a teenage girl and her patron Saint (who I would consider to be the main character in the novel, but I am not certain that was the intent). Teenage Lydia goes through the trials of her senior year in high school and Freshman year of college through this book. The novel feels like you are reading a diary, full of thought-provoking conversation and honesty. Lots and lots of honesty. Her Patron Saint, unbeknownst to teenage Lydia, is her ever present cheer leader and confidant. I love how this book made me consider my relationship with the young people around me. It makes me question what my own reactions will be when my children are seeking answers for themselves. Will I create the level of trust teenage Lydia learns with my own children? I challenge you to read (or listen) to the book yourself and think on how your own relationships across the generations can be strengthened.

Whether or not you are an Orthodox Christian this book has something to offer. The dual narration is lovely. I preferred to listen at regular speed.

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A must read for older teens!

Although, I did not personally have some of the same experiences as Lydia, I do remember having many of the same feelings of the struggle of being in between childhood and womanhood. This young lady felt she had been left behind as her family found Orthodoxy when she was not sure of her faith at all. I journeyed with her as she dealt with her feelings about a friend’s pregnancy, the relationship with her family, specifically her mother, new friendships at college, and her own personal tragedy. Through it all, I was there listening, to the beautiful and wise words of Saint Lydia, to whom she writes. My heart broke with Lydia’s, and leapt with hers. I experienced the ups and downs with her as I listened to her story. Saint Lydia’s words of understanding, support, and encouragement are those any young person trying to navigate their way in this world should hear. This book is a gentle reminder for me to continually look toward the saints for wisdom and love.

I received a free book credit in return for an honest review.

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LOVE THIS BOOK - EXCELLENT ON AUDIO!

This book is a beautiful conversation between a young woman trying to find her faith and her namesake in heaven praying for her and guiding her towards it. Lydia can't read At. Lydia's responses, but we can, and we are better for it. The audio edition of this book is fantastic. Both narrators whole-heartedly took on their roles. This is a book I will be thrilled to share with my children when they are old enough. It covers some heavy topics that need to be discussed, especially for anyone about to go to college and live on their own, without being heavy-handed. Instead it is a chronicle of a relationship of true love over some serious challenges. Those who are curious about Orthodox Christianity will learn a lot from this book, those who are Orthodox will enjoy it tremendously, but the story is captivating for any listener.

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Letter to other listeners


Dear Potential Listener,

I remember meeting a young woman much like the character of Lydia in this book. She about the same age, and her parents were converting to Orthodoxy. She, unlike Lydia, was “going along with” her parents’ conversion, but she had a lot of the same questions and concerns expressed by Lydia. I couldn’t help, as I listened, imagining my young friend at that time in her life. She struggled with what to say to her friends, how to relate to her parents and how to navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood. The questions that Lydia wrestles with in this book may be universal. Her insights, however, show that this character is not as superficial as some teen characters (or actual teens) might be. I think my young friend would have appreciated this book a lot at the time.

Saint Lydia’s responses to young Lydia’s letters to her are thought-provoking and wise. In another review I read about this book, a reader shared that there were elements of “automatic writing” in this story - I disagree. The main character doesn’t imagine up the responses of the saint that she is writing to. The author creates the responses from Saint Lydia, providing an idea of what the interaction could have been; in the story, the teenaged Lydia never actually reads the responses from the Saint. That said, I found the interactions fascinating. It gives a glimpse of the kind of friendship one might develop with a saint or saints. I found myself wishing for a written copy so I could easily highlight and re-read some of the responses and advice that were given.

In my own life, when I’m not at home with family, I work as a therapist. My current population of clients includes those who have seen more and experienced more than most, and who need support to move forward. Lydia’s horrific experience in March of the story resonated as one that many of the people I work with have gone through. The author did a good job of letting me know what had happened without going into too much gory detail. My heart broke with Lydia, and then I sobbed with her in thankfulness for the responses of those who genuinely loved her. The depiction of love shown to her after the event shows so well how we can respond to others who have experienced trauma.

I hope, listener, that you will give yourself a chance to listen and to enjoy it. If you’re thinking of sharing it with your children or teens, it might be better to listen through first just so that you know what is included. Knowing what will be “talked” about can help you consider how to talk about it with your teen if you’re listening together, or if you give it as a gift. The overall messages are spot-on. The depictions of teens and their experiences are also well-done. The best part, though, is that throughout the book, there is an encouragement for the teen (and for all of us) to pursue a relationship with God for oneself, to know His love, to grow in it, and to share it with others. There is a call to depth of life, love, and living.

I hope, listener, that you’ll enjoy this book as much, or hopefully even more than I did.

Much love, CL/Juliana

PS - *IF* you've ever listened to this author read another of her books (like Shepherding Sam), it may take a while to adjust to her distinctive voice being that of Saint Lydia in this story. I found myself expecting her to describe Saucer (the Corgi) and what he was doing with Sam. After a few chapters, though, I was able to adjust and could hear Saint Lydia.