Tag Archives: Amish

Book Spotlight: The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer

About the book:
Bandit troubles intensify as Caleb Bender’s family attempts to settle into their new life in 1920s Paradise Valley. When El Pantera kidnaps Rachel and leaves her brother Aaron for dead, Jake Weaver and Domingo pursue the bandit leader to his mountain stronghold in a hopeless rescue attempt.

Read an excerpt of The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer.

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Secrets of Harmony Grove by Mindy Starns Clark

Word Lily review

Secrets of Harmony Grove by Mindy Starns Clark, (Harvest House, October 1, 2010), 386 pages

Sienna is pretty happy in life; she’s got a new job at a swanky Philadelphia advertising agency, which affords her the amenities of life she’s always wanted. Her boyfriend is really into her, and the mere sight of him makes her swoon. But she returns from a business trip and is called to the bosses’ office. She’s suspended, without pay, indefinitely, because she’s under investigation by the federal government. She heads to Lancaster County to check on her bed and breakfast, and what she finds there puts her being investigated in the back of her mind.

This is a book set in Amish country — Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, even — but it’s not really an Amish book.

I was distracted from the story by corny similes on the page and set this book aside for awhile. I’m glad I came back to it, though, because of this:

“During the renovation, when I was spending more time with the [Amish] relatives than I had in years, I had even done an experiment, privately taking note of how I was feeling and when. Over and over, the way it went was that at five minutes, I would finally stop listening for a radio or TV in the background. At fifteen minutes, even if the company was interesting and the conversation stimulating, I would find myself glancing at my phone wondering if emails had come in, discreetly checking for texts. At twenty-five minutes, I would wonder to myself how these people could possibly live like this. Weren’t they bored out of their minds?

“It usually took about an hour before my muscles would finally start to relax. By the two-hour mark, I would find a stillness I forgot I could even experience. To their credit, this kind of silence was intentional. As isolated as the Amish often seemed, it always surprised me how very aware they were of the impact noise could have on a life and the damage confusion and chaos could wreak on a soul.

“Ultimately, beyond that hard-won stillness came the true goal: a oneness with God. Was it any wonder I always felt spiritually renewed when I spent time in Amish country? By turning down the noise of my life, I was able to hear those still, small whispers of a loving God, whispers that filled my heart and never failed to refresh my soul.”

~Page 194, Secrets of Harmony Grove

In this brief excerpt, Sienna is clearly talking about the stillness she’s found in Amish country, particularly when she’s with her Amish relatives. But she’s also contrasting a fast-paced city life with a slower, more intentional, more rural one. This resonates with me. Not that it’s a completely new thought, but, I guess, I needed the reminder. The last month or so I’ve been craving a slower, simpler, quieter lifestyle, and perhaps the reason for that is just as Mindy Starns Clark (through Sienna) stated here.

I also enjoyed the perspectives given on nonviolence, conscientious objector status and self-defense.

I did figure out well ahead of time some of the answers this mystery sought, without trying.

It had been awhile since I’d read a Mindy Starns Clark book, and I was glad for the chance to try another. While not the greatest books I’ve ever read, I’ve always enjoyed her work, and this was no exception. I’ve especially appreciated her books for the touches of humor.

My [old] reviews of other Mindy Starns Clark books:
The Trouble with Tulip
Blind Dates Can Be Murder
Elementary, My Dear Watkins

Rating: 3.5 stars

About the author
Mindy Starns Clark is a former singer and stand-up comedian; she and her family live in Pennsylvania.

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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

A Wedding Quilt for Ella by Jerry S. Eicher

Word Lily review

A Wedding Quilt for Ella by Jerry S. Eicher, book 1 in the Little Valley series (Harvest House, February 1, 2011), 288 pages

It’s mere months until Ella Yoder’s wedding to the man of her dreams, and from her perspective, nothing can go wrong. But then it does. Aden’s appendix bursts, and he dies. How will Ella deal with her grief and move on?

This was, I think, the second Amish book I’ve read since the category exploded. I may have read some before that, but it was a really long time ago, if I did. If you like Amish books, this is probably one you’d enjoy.

I myself was straining against the strictures and confines — real or imagined (and it wasn’t entirely clear on that point) — of the community, nearly all the way through. Specifically, these: only certain life/career paths are acceptable, particularly for women; art and beauty have no value except possibly a negative one; and it’s not acceptable to question God, to even wonder why things happen a certain way.

None of these are exactly surprising in an Amish book, I suppose; perhaps this is why I’ve not read more of them.

For what it is (and what I expected), it’s not bad. It’s just not what I love.

Book 2 in the Little Valley series, Ella’s Wish, was released in May. Book 3, Ella Finds Love Again, is due out September 1. [Aside: I’m cringing about that last title, because it feels like a huge spoiler for me.]

Rating: 2.5 stars

About the author
Jerry S. Eicher taught for two terms in parochial Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. He is involved in church renewal, preaching and conducting weekend meetings of in-depth Bible teaching. As a boy, he spent eight years in Honduras, where his grandfather helped found an Amish community outreach. He and his family live in Virginia.

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The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall

sound of sleigh bellsThe Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall (WaterBrook, October 6, 2009), 208 pages

I have intentionally avoided Amish fiction. I didn’t understand the allure, and it was so hugely popular. But when I had the chance to read and review this book, a short, Christmasy (Look at that snowy cover!) book, I decided to take the chance.

Beth works alongside her aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store. Lizzy’s been so much more than an aunt through the years. But ever since the accident, Beth has closed herself off to everyone, including Lizzy. It’s still evident to all that she’s in pain, though, and Lizzy’s tried just about everything she can think of. So when she sees Beth’s eyes light up upon sight of a carving, she makes a choice.

The story stars wounded people, but the real focal point is healing, hope.

It’s not actually a Christmasy story at all. Sure, part of the story takes place at Christmas, but that’s it.

It’s a sweet, simple story. And while it’s set in an Amish world, it wasn’t very much about Amish life or culture (at least it didn’t seem so to me). I appreciate that Woodsmall set real-world problems in this environment, but the book wasn’t as Amish as I expected or hoped. Just as it wasn’t as Christmasy as I expected, based on the cover.

I probably could have grown to care more deeply about the characters, but perhaps the shortness of this book prevented that. The ending was pretty well telegraphed early on. Overall, I did enjoy reading The Sound of Sleigh Bells.

I still don’t get the draw of Amish fiction, though. My best guess: It’s escapism at its finest. Readers long for a simpler life, a simpler time, when life was slower and easier.

Woodsmall is the author of several books, the first of which was published in 2006 (it surprised me that it was so recent).

Other reviews
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