Review: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Leanna is one of my favorite protagonists! She doesn’t apologize for being different (and that’s something, when you’re not a naturally domestic kind of gal, but you *are* Amish), and she doesn’t resent being different, either. Leanna uses her talents to work in a mechanical shop, and she loves it! But author Fuller doesn’t stop there; she fleshes out the full character of Leanna – a loving sibling, a fun caregiver, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

And then we meet Roman. He’s Amish too, sort of. And he is also a mechanic, sort of. He’s on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and reconciliation with his brother. 

Fuller does a great job illustrating modern Amish life, touching on family dynamics, spirituality, unconventional career choices, education, and romance. I appreciate that Fuller wrote a strong, feminine character that performed a “man’s” job,  without making Leanna into a stereotype or a mascot for feminist politics. And I am pleased that there was a happily ever after for more than one couple. 

-calliope 

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Review (quick and dirty #2): The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter 

Love Amish books, and love the main character Heidi (and her husband Lyle). Brunstetter does a good job writing dialogue and action for this married couple without children. I enjoyed Heidi’s cooking classes and her visits with friends. But the secondary characters…. oh my. The unrealistic, over the top, and inconsistent personalities drove me crazy. I struggled to get through their stilted dialogue. The only reason I finished is because I always need to know how a book ends! Plot and main characters get 4 stars from me, but the execution of secondary character development completely failed. 

-calliope

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Review: Return to Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

This installment of The Matchmakers series is just as good as the rest were – and fine to read as a standalone. What sets this one apart is the angst! Most of Beckstrand’s other books are fun and flip, adventuresome and whimsical. In Return to Huckleberry Hill, Reuben deals with the demon of pride, and though I didn’t feel bad for him in the least, I did sympathize with those around him. 

Fern King, too, deals with demons. Oh how I wanted to cry for her — trying to be strong, always showing a cheerful face, never complaining, yet truly dying inside. Fern endures so much, and I really almost couldn’t take it! (I’ll never forgive you, Ms. Beckstrand, if Barbara Schmucker doesn’t get her due.)  But Fern also gets to see Reuben and her brother John in a new environment – and witness their growth (or lack of it). 

Anna and Felty remain the cute elderly couple that gets in everyone’s business trying to make love connections. I haven’t tired of them yet, and I’m almost endeared to Anna’s creative cooking.  

This is a non-traditional Amish novel in that it doesn’t center around faith and obedience as much as some might; yet Beckstrand gives the main characters the gift of self-reflection… something that made me want to be best friends with Fern, and let me forgive Reuben for almost all of his trespasses. 

-Calliope

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Review: The Seekers (Book 1 of The Amish Cooking Class series) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Amish couple Heidi and Lyle live a simple life on their farm, but with Lyle out most of the day and no children to care for, Heidi finds her days empty. When Heidi advertises a cooking class – that she will teach in her home kitchen – an unexpected variety of participants arrives. They’re nervous to start cooking, but also nervous about being judged by a new group of people. 

The Seekers is very predictable, and an easy, straightforward read. I kind of needed something like that when I read this, so I appreciated the no-effort, feel-good experience! The Seekers wasn’t overly simplistic, though. The author wrote in a few characters that I myself judged … and by the end she had taught me a little lesson about that. *hangs head in shame* 

Once in a while it’s necessary to get back to basics, on an Amish farm, with a cooking class worthy of The Breakfast Club, and a lesson much more important than the pie crust turning out. I found that in The Seekers. 

-calliope

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Review: The Devoted by Suzanne Woods Fisher

What a terrific book! I loved reading The Devoted for Suzanne Woods Fisher’s excellent writing and ability to touch my heart. Amish Ruthie is thinking of leaving the community to search for something bigger and better. Dok has been there, done that, has the t-shirt… and wore it back home for a reason.  Patrick the Englischer faces matters of his own mortality and wants to become Amish, serendipitously taking away time Ruthie might have with her boyfriend Luke. 

The bishop watches it all unfold, shares his words of wisdom, and takes a stand when individual storing-up grows into a problem worse than the Israelites hoarding manna. I so appreciated the discussions of sufficiency and dependency woven seamlessly into a story that centers around family and community. 

Fisher has a way of bringing the reader into the Amish world, so we wend through problems with the characters, connecting and loving and learning with them. I’m grateful. 

-calliope

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