Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Write-Up: An Amish Summer

Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Irvin.  An Amish Summer: Four Novellas.  Thomas Nelson, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

An Amish Summer contains four novellas about the Amish that are set in the summer.  Here are my comments about each novella.

“A Reunion in Pinecraft,” by Shelley Shepard Gray.

Sharon and Sherilyn Kramer are sisters.  Sherilyn is outgoing and makes friends easily.  Sharon is reserved, but she is considered to be more attractive.  Graham Holland meets Sharon and likes her, but he ends up writing to Sherilyn, thinking that Sherilyn is Sharon on account of their similar names.  Graham visits and has to deal with the awkwardness.  Accompanying him is his friend Toby.  Toby is tall and muscular, so a lot of women flirt with him, but he is awkward socially and thus has difficulties establishing romantic relationships.

This is the only work by Shelley Shepherd Gray that I have read thus far.  I liked something that she said in the Acknowledgements: that she has wanted to be part of an Amish novella collection for some time, and she is glad that her work is included alongside the best authors of the Amish genre, namely, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Irvin.  The story itself ended differently from what I expected.  It also included an Amish proverb, which may not absolutely be true but still could be edifying, in situations: “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“Summer Storms,” by Amy Clipston.

Arianna is engaged to Jesse.  But Arianna’s brother Tobias has a buggy accident while drinking, and Jesse is with him.  Arianna’s father blames Jesse, in part, and ends Arianna’s engagement.

Like a lot of Amy Clipston stories, this one seemed to dwell on the same theme over a long period of time.  Tobias’ personal pain was a compelling aspect of this novella, however: he was jealous of Jesse because things came easily for him and fell into his lap.  Tobias also had his dreams, which Tobias’ father refused to understand.  The novella does not entirely end on a happily-ever-after note, but there is a limited degree of reconciliation.

“Lakeside Love,” by Kathleen Fuller.

Esther has long loved Judah.  Judah, however, has eyes for Esther’s pretty younger sister, Sarah, and he sees Esther merely as a friend.  Rhett is an Englisher who has come to stay among the Amish, in order to learn more about them for his studies.  His presence gets Judah to think about how he (Judah) really feels about Esther.

This story had similar themes to the first story: Who is really the underdog?  What does one truly want in a romantic partner?  There is also the theme that people who appear to have everything together may be dealing with their own insecurities.  “Lakeside Love” was my favorite story in this collection, though.  Rhett is a sincerely kind person, even when people suspect him.  And I liked who Sarah eventually married: you would not expect such a marriage to occur, but it did, and it works.

“One Sweet Kiss,” by Kelly Irvin.

Jacob King and Martha Byler have a romantic attraction, on some level.  Both share the common experience of having lost a parent.  But Martha is reluctant to pursue a relationship with Jacob because she feels that he has not grown up.  Jacob is on his rumspringa, hanging out with his foolish friend Dwayne.

I read this story, but I had some difficulty getting into it.  Part of my problem may have been the high number of characters: I was glad that Irvin included a character list at the beginning, but it was rather daunting.  And Dwayne’s character made me feel as if I was at a long frat party.  The novella had interesting themes, though: the theme of maturity, and the question of romantic relationships among developmentally-delayed people.  The romance between the two developmentally-delayed people was sweet, even if it struck me as too convenient for the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

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