Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Wish, A Story of Friendship, Love and Coming Home

Product Details
Renowned author of Amish
Fiction, Beverly Lewis has hit home once again with her latest book The Wish.  This time, her story centers on two  young ladies, Leona Spreicher and Gloria Gingerich.  Leona was a lonely girl, born late in life to parents who were quiet and reserved. She may as well  have been an only child with her much older married brother Mahlon.  She longed for a friendship. A friendship with someone her own age who she could confide in and have fun as only girls can have fun.  Her life seemed so quiet and ordinary. One day, a family from an Arkansas community became her neighbors. It was a lucky day for Leona when she met Gloria who was just the friend she longed for. She began spending time at the Gingerich home when her own mother was stricken with a debilitating case of pneumonia and couldn't care for Leona. Gloria's family was everything Leona's family was not with younger, fun loving parents and brothers to play games with.  This was the family she felt she should have been born into. Until one day, the family suddenly moved away from Colerain Township.  Gloria's father, Arkansas Joe had been expelled from the Old Order Amish church under mysterious circumstances.  The girls were both heartsick and Gloria vowed to stay in touch with Leona.

Leona still missed her dear friend after three years but her strong faith led her to become baptized. She had also become engaged and worked part-time in her sister-in-laws gift shop.  Her life was whole. One day, however, a letter came from Gloria that rocked her world. Her dear friend needed her and Leona was determined to go to Gloria and help in any way she could.  Gloria's new life leads Leona to take a leap of faith and with her fiancee's blessing becomes determined to bring Gloria back home.  She only hopes she is not too late.

This is an inspiring story of resilience where two young women never forgot their old childhood friendship.  It is also a story of true forgiveness and lessons learned when we forgive and move forward.  I enjoyed the book for the story but also the lessons. Sometimes when we think the grass must be greener in the neighbor's yard we need only to look at what we are growing at home and appreciate what we have.  I had a hard time putting this book down. As with every book I have read by Beverly Lewis, this story is well grounded, has well developed characters people can identify with, brings tears to my eyes and makes me happy I read it!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mattie's Pledge: An Amish Woman's Journey to Indiana

Our world is full of dreamers looking for that magical place just beyond the mountains or across the river.  Mattie's Pledge (book 2 in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series ) by Jan Drexler is the story of a young Amish woman who is seduced by wanderlust. Mattie Schrock left Brother's Valley in Pennsylvania with her family to settle in Indiana.  She loved the lure of seeing new places and longed for adventure and yearned to see what was just beyond the mountains.  Not new to pulling  up stakes, Mattie's father had moved the family to Brother's Valley from the Conestoga area just seven years before.

It was 1843 and Americans were involved with the westward movement, including the Amish people. Farmland was getting scarce and the promise of cheaper land and the opportunity to build a larger community moving west appealing.  We often read of the great migration to the Oregon but the Midwest was still largely unsettled at the time.

Jacob Yoder's family from the Conestoga area, former neighbors and friends of the Schrock's joined in to complete the group.  As old friends, Jacob and Mattie enjoyed reconnecting that travelling by wagon afforded them time to get to know each other as young adults with dreams and plans ready to unfold.  Jacob planned to purchase land and build a future home for a wife and family. Mattie was committed to adventure and had no desire to settle down in one place for the rest of her life.  Two hearts so close yet with such different dreams.

Traveling on any trail wouldn't be complete without danger. The Bates brothers added that element of danger with their determination to steal the beautiful Conestoga horses from the Amish camp.  Cole Bates was intrigued by Mattie and had just enough charm to give her romantic ideas to dream of going further to Oregon.  He was determined to have those horses and capture Mattie's heart for his own.

Product DetailsThis story shows the example of forgiveness of the Amish people. When Cole is caught red-handed trying to steal the horses, he is told to take just one team and leave the rest. Unable to figure out whether that was a trick, he let them be, at least that night. He was also offered food which was also an unexpected kindness.

Cole's greed and determination to have those horses keeps Jacob Yoder on guard throughout the trip.  His patience and vigilance throughout the story shows great patience and courage.  He used these traits with Mattie, knowing she was searching for something to fill up her life beyond her simple life.

Jan Drexler has painted the characters of her story with care. The development of  their characters and how they grew in the story are a compliment to the author. It was good to read of the ups and downs of their nature and see how they used their given strengths to get through their trials.  While the story focuses mainly on Mattie, Jacob and Cole, we can't overlook the other stories being told within the lives of these young people.  They are woven into the daily life on the trail and play active roles in shaping our main characters.

We can get as impatient as Mattie as the story plods along through a black marsh or becomes difficult as a tragic storm hits them on the road. Yet the resilience of all the people in this story are a testament to the strength men and women possessed to keep our country growing.  The Amish are an important part of our society, living out their Anabaptist faith still today.  America is a potpourri of culture and religions, the very thing our founders embraced.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It Happened In This Road We Traveled

When I finished reading This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick I put it down and said "Wow." This is yet another book about the Oregon Trail but what sets it apart is that it is written about a very real woman who at 66 years old set out to find what she would do with the rest of her life. Not content to stay behind in Missouri, Tabby took a leap of faith, bought a wagon, hired a driver and crossed a continent of unknowns. Tabitha Moffit Brown is called the Mother of Oregon and her journey is written of with great care by Jane Kirkpatrick.

About an hour ago my husband and I returned from a trip down along the Oregon Trail.  Considering I had just finished reading this book Friday evening it was fitting to pause and visualize those wagons heading in our direction. I admit the experiences seem daunting to me. Could I have made this trek?  Walking beside a wagon for hours, then trying to bake cornbread on the lid of a cast iron dutch oven seems a trial. Anticipating what the conditions would be like and finding the path narrowing onto a cliff above deep canyons takes my breath away as it must have for the emigrating families. Continually weeding out possessions to lighten the load would be so difficult. After carefully choosing what to bring and what to leave behind would have already been a painstaking process. Tabby's daughter Pherne, unsure of the journey to begin with left behind her fine furnishings and books that she treasured.

Tabby Brown began the journey with her family and were led by her oldest son Orus. He had taken this journey before and the plan was to follow the Columbia.  Tabby's wagon was driven alongside her daughter Pherne and son-in-law Virgil, their family and Tabby's brother-in-law John.  They were separated from Orus with the distance growing day by day. Eventually they were two weeks behind Orus. Tabby and her group were approached by the Applegates and a Mr. Scott who sold them the idea of avoiding the dangerous Columbia by following a new trail from the bottom of the territory, working up to where Orus had built a cabin.  They were convinced this shortcut would land them at their destination before the experienced Orus arrived. 

Product DetailsAfter careful consideration the group followed the Applegate Trail and from there on the journey went from difficult to brutal.  The slow pace of travel on roads that were carved during the journey was hard on everyone. Provisions ran short along with tempers. Sickness and near starvation made it difficult for the travelers to persevere.  Broken wagon tongues and wheels, dying oxen and the death of family members are hard for me to imagine. I admire all who made it to their destination because they were courageous people whose indomitable spirit paved the way in which the west was settled.  

Jane Kirkpatrick has once again used her talent in a compelling way to bring the story of a woman who could have just been one of a group who survived a harrowing journey along the Applegate Trail.  What is important is that there are many people who took what they experienced and shaped an important part of the history of our great western states. Many people who courageously made their way west for 640 acres lost their lives or were separated from their families. A whole group of young people were impacted by this. Also about this time the Whitman Massacre devastated the area and left more orphans. Tabby Brown now saw her purpose at the end of the trail and while she could have retired in comfort with either Orus or Pherne she founded an orphanage and school in Forest Grove, not far from what is today known as Portland Oregon.  She enlisted the help of missionaries Harvey and Emmaline Clark and founded what is known as Pacific University today.  She did finally move in with her daughter Pherne, but only a few months shy of her death at 78. 

Journals, diaries and notes on scrap paper have brought to light many bits and pieces of what happened on the great migration west. Many thanks to those who have revered these glimpses to the past and to authors like Jane Kirkpatrick who bring these important stories to light.  I received this book from Revell for review and thank them for the opportunity to read it and learn from it.