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The Friendly Persuasion

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  535 ratings  ·  85 reviews
A quintessential American heroine, Eliza Birdwell is a wonderful blend of would-be austerity, practicality, and gentle humor when it comes to keeping her faith and caring for her family and community. Her husband, Jess, shares Eliza's love of people and peaceful ways but, unlike Eliza, also displays a fondness for a fast horse and a lively tune. With their children, they m ...more
Paperback, 228 pages
Published September 8th 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 1940)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 976)
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Suzanne
“No, it wasn’t Eliza’s preaching nor any outward lack the eye could see that troubled Jess. It was music. Jess pined for music, though it would hard to say how he’d come by any such longing. To the Quakers music was a popish dido, a sop to the senses, a hurdle waiting to trip man in his upward struggle. They kept it out of their Meeting Houses and out of their homes, too.”

Jessamyn West wrote this novel about an Indiana Quaker family almost 75 years ago. Beginning in the 1860′s, we follow this
...more
Michael
The story of a Quaker family in India in the days prior to the Civil War.
The main characters are Indiana Quaker Jess Birdwell, his wife, Eliza and their children, Labe, Josh and Mattie, an 1850 junior miss.
It is interesting to hear the men discuss politics and politicians such as Stephen A. Douglas.
The story moves slowly as if we were witnessing farm life and the growth of crops and getting them ready of market. There is a scene I enjoyed where Jess and his wife take a neighbor to court over a g
...more
Emma Jane
I don't believe I've ever read a book quite like this before. It was funny, it was fresh, it was sweet, but it was very strange. On one hand, it puzzled me. On the other, it struck a chord deep inside me and I absolutely loved it. I still don't know what to think.

The Friendly Persuasion is the story of the Birdwell family; Jess, his wife Eliza, and their six children. It was much different than I expected; I thought it would be a lot about the Civil War, but it turned out that was only a tiny p
...more
Mary
I wish the cover of the copy I read had looked like this, instead of a lame picture from the movie they made. Anyway, I don't give out five stars very easily anymore, but Jessamyn West fully earned it with this one. You know how some authors have that knack of beautifully describing something perfectly normal or banal in a way that makes you completely identify with their words and view that thing in a new light? She does that, time and again. Her humor is impeccable, too. The story is about a Q ...more
Curtiss
This is the thoroughly charming story of a Quaker family in rural Indiana during the mid-19th Century. The husband, Jeff Birdwell has a weakness for music which is considered extravagant and self-indulgent by the Society of Friends and becomes a bit of a bone-of-contention between he and his wife, Eliza, who happens to be a minister of their church.

Jeff also has a passion for a fast-trotting horse, and the fact that his Big Red looks fast tempts him into taking on the Methodist Minister's trotte
...more
Kathleen
I loved this book! It was one that I recall bits of, long ago when my older sister was reading it and wanted to share what she'd enjoyed, but I didn't read it for myself until I was on vacation recently, and wanted something light but enlightening. It may seem a bit old fashioned in today's society, but one of the reasons I read it was to get a glimpse of 19th century Quaker farming family, after finding out that I had a little Quaker stock in my ancestry. The characters, based on the Jessamyn W ...more
Douglas  Donaldson
It is my sincere hope that someday soon the Library of America will produce a volume of the Collected Works of Jessamymn West. Until then, readers will have to make do with paperback editions or funky used ones. It would be a shame to let her portrayals of the American spirit disappear from view. This book, along with the hard-to-find "Except For Me and Thee," offers up her paean for her own Quaker ancestory in a series of short stories that chronicle the Jess Birdwell family. Jess, an Indiana f ...more
Jennifer Griffith
This book is loveliness itself. It's surely Jessamyn West's masterpiece. The Quaker family faces real world challenges and meets them with humor and courage, everything from whether or not to have a piano in their Quaker home to the danger of harboring refugees from the South in the Civil War to allowing one of their sons to leave to fight for the North.

It's at once touching and light-hearted. I love the people in The Friendly Persuasion and would like to meet them and have them give me a littl
...more
Cindy Marsch
A surprising source recommended this as having really interesting prose styling. I think it was someone like Joan Didion . . . And she was right--beautifully written, with very interesting ways to convey things. The first chapter was off-putting to me, though after having read the rest I might be able to go back and enjoy it. But it felt too hokey. I loved the way West traces many seasons of a life (Jess's particularly) with a change of focus for each chapter, which is really a stand-alone story ...more
Betsy
Having just moved to southern Indiana, I thought I would give this book a try. Meh. Started out with some great stories, then it dragged. In one of the final chapters, I was so confused, I couldn't tell what was happening or who "Aunt Jetty" was. Good peek into quaker life in the mid to late 1800's, I thought.
Jennifer
This is an amazing collection of stories about the Birdwells, a family of Quakers during the Civil War. The stories were written during WWII, and they start out light-hearted and funny, but get progressively sadder. What I liked best was that West wrote the different stories from the points-of-view of different family members. And whether she was writing from the father's POV or the teenage daughter's, she did it so well!
Also, this is one of those rare occasions where the movie is just as good a
...more
Jayne Bowers
Although Jess and Eliza Birdwell appear to be just another Quaker couple, their story is both universal and unique. The book is actually a compilation of stories about the Birdwell's life as they raise their children, share experiences, and grow old together.

There are rich stories that speak of family, home, coming of age, relationships, new beginnings, and themes too many to mention. There's the Illumination with a houseful of company, the carriage race on the way to church, the death of a youn
...more
Ngdecker
I had read this book years ago, but recently we saw the movie on Netflix. We enjoyed it so much that I told my daughter to get it. They loved it also, and she decided to read the book. She persuaded me to reread the book as she was enjoying it so much. She said reading it was like a gift.

I was so glad she had suggested this. I was amazed at the writing and beautiful descriptions. It is a book to be savored and read word by word. It is very different than most of the books written today. Rather
...more
Alyson Farmer
I wish I could say I thought this book was more than "ok." In truth, I keep falling asleep as I read it. I wish that I didn't have to be so entertained by what I read and could enjoy a slower prose. The smaller stories in this book were for the most part entertaining and I even laughed out loud at times, especially the chapter on horse racing! That said, I struggled to get through this book.

As we discussed at book club, we did learn more about the Quakers by reading it. My great grandmother, wh
...more
Heather Cawte
I read this because I watched the film of the same name, never having encountered Jessamyn West before. She writes with enormous warmth and human insight, and with an ever-present sense of humour. These stories are so vivid and real, and I was sorry to reach the end of the book - and then delighted when I realised there was another volume of stories about the same family!
Judith
I found this book at a second hand store, and it was cheap and looked like I might one day want to read it, so on a whim I bought it. I'd never heard of it before. A few days ago it felt like the kind of thing I might be in the mood for, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Aside from the fact that it had me laughing out loud several times, it's also a moving book in a gentle way, and I like the format of short stories, snap-shots, really, rather than a novel. It somehow seem ...more
Leah
This book was basically a book of individual stories linked together only because it was about one Quaker family. I loved the light humor and insight on a way of life I know nothing about. I grew to care about Jess and to respect Eliza. My only complaint is that I consistently felt like I was a little behind. There was never an introduction to who was in the family and who were the servants, so from time to time, I wondered who this new person was and what happened to the others. There was littl ...more
Esther
A light and funny story about family life. The main characters are based on the author's family growing up in the early 1900's as Quakers.
Debbie
The review from The Washington Post expresses my feelings about this book. "West writes gracefully, occasionally poetically, in a voice both innocent and brave." While reading this book I had to stop often and read sentences out loud to my husband either for the sheer beauty of the words or for the subtle humor. One example is her description of old Lafe Millspaugh.

She writes, "He was an oddity in a neighborhood that had time and space for oddness, appreciated its varieties and did nothing to d
...more
Pam Jessen
I just recently read the companion book, Except for Me and Thee, and I liked it enough to go back and read the book that introduced these characters, Jess and Eliza Birdwell.

I had a few questions about some of the items in "sequel" that seemed like unfinished thoughts, so I hoped this first book would have answered those items (therefore, in the sequel, things would have made more sense, because it would have been assumed readers knew what happened and the sequel just had additional details to
...more
Shawn Thrasher
I have really mixed feelings about this book. For starters, it's not really a novel, it's a collection of short stories, published in various magazines over a period of years, loosely arranged chronologically. Some of the stories are delightfully sweet, painful, and sad - about life and death, family, love, art, the meaning of life, God, neighbors. But there is something editorially lazy about the book regarding the characters over the arc of the stories. While Jess and Eliza remain the same, th ...more
Jenny
My boyfriend's father lent me this book because it had a woman Quaker preacher in it. He thought I'd be interested in it, since I am trying to be a Presbyterian pastor.

I lost the book with about 10 pages left to read for over a month...so details aren't quite clear anymore. Initially, I thought the book could not be improved upon in the last 10 pages, but they were actually quite sweet and I do think that the final paragraph or two is perhaps the key to understanding the book.

Overall, however,
...more
Dale Harcombe
This is my favourite book. The stories concern a Quaker family living in days around the civil war in Indiana. Gentle humour shines through as well as the love they have for each other and the way their faith impacts on their lives. I bought this after seeing the film and then reading this book from the library. I had to own it. It is one of a selected few novels I re-read and it never fails to raise a smile and draw me in, even when I already know what is coming. This is a delight and gives gre ...more
Alissa
I enjoyed finding out that Jessamyn West based these stories on her own ancestors. I also appreciated the humor that she wove into quite a few of the stories and learned a little about Quakers as I read.
Maria
Set in Jennings County, Indiana this gentle book follows the life of a Quaker family in the late nineteenth century through a series of stories. Each chapter is a glimpse into a slower life style, filled with the wonder and awe of the natural world.

Why I picked this up: We are going to use this book for our Community Read next year. I needed to read it in order to get ideas for programs and discussions.

Why I finished it: This is a very different glimpse of the community that I work in. Quiet and
...more
Charlotte
I liked this book. It had some stories from different perspectives than I usually think about things. It was also interesting to think about a life in snippets of stories.
Ada
I enjoyed the movie a lot, so thought I would truly delight in reading about it--especially since we had just visited the Civil War area sites. However, it was a little bit disappointing to me. The story was supposedly covering the family of Quakers during the Civil War time period; but the book only had a chapter about that situation. It was more about the thoughts and feelings of Jess who is married to a Quaker preacher. Perhaps the writing style was a little foreign to me and I couldn't quit ...more
Leah Beecher
A collection of short stories rarely so grabs me that I will read a book of them the whole way through. This was exactly the case of Friendly Persuasion. Like her book Cress Delahney, which I gave 4 stars and did finish, this book is about one family and snippets of their life are told in each chapter.
Maybe it was the "thee" and "thous" like every second (being a Quaker family) but I just did not connect with any of the family members, and if I don't connect, I don't care what may or may not hap
...more
gaudeo
Besides a beautifully written novel with characters the reader genuinely grows to love, this book is a tonic for people worn out by stories (and media) full of sex and violence. Oh, there are tensions here, and much growing that takes place, and the fact that plot and resolutions proceed gently and satisfactorily need not bore or trouble any reader. And all is accomplished with rich language and gifted narration. This is the first I've read of Jessamyn West, but I'll certainly be looking for mor ...more
Jenny
A very gentle, lovely book. I would have given it 5 stars, but I wish it would have had a little more plot. I felt like each chapter was a beautifully written vignette, but not tied together as a whole story. Several times, especially at the beginning, I was lost as to how old the characters were or how much time had passed. Characters were deveoped in one chapter and then not dealt with again, or only mentioned briefly. But the imagery and writing was beautiful and definitely worth reading.
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Mary Jessamyn West was an American Quaker (originally from Indiana) who wrote numerous stories and novels, notably The Friendly Persuasion (1945).
More about Jessamyn West...
Cress Delahanty Except for Me and Thee The Massacre at Fall Creek The Quaker Reader The Life I Really Lived

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