Bethany House, BLOG

The First Love by Beverly Lewis

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

TITLE: The First Love

AUTHOR: Beverly Lewis

PUBLISHER AND DATE: Bethany House, November 2018

It’s the summer of 1951, and Maggie Esh is in need of some hope. Sweet-spirited and uncommonly pretty despite struggling with chronic illness, she is used to being treated kindly by the young men of her Old Order Amish church district. Yet Maggie wishes she were more like other courting-age girls so she could live a normal, healthy life.

To make matters more complicated, Dat has recently remarried, less than a year after her mother died. And while her stepmother is kind, Rachel is much younger than Mamm, and she simply doesn’t understand Maggie or her illness the way Mamm did.

When tent revival meetings come to the area, Maggie is curious, and the words of the Mennonite preacher challenge her to reconsider what she knows about faith. Can she learn to trust God even when hope seems a distant dream?

 

MY REVIEW:

Packed full of emotion and Biblical truth, this latest novel by Beverly Lewis explores young Maggie’s struggle with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as she comes of age. The First Love also reveals Maggie’s family’s struggle to accept their father’s new wife, less than a year after their beloved Mamm dies.  
The reason I enjoyed the book was that it helped me see life from the perspective of people who have had a very different experience than myself. 
Lewis carefully brings out the details of a disease like Maggie’s. Life is never predictable, health-wise, from day-to-day. Others may or may not understand the inability of one with RA to do tasks one day that they could do the day before. Bad health can make a romantic future uncertain. I learned to love Maggie and was especially glad when she takes a risk that changes her life. 
I also really enjoyed the wisdom of Aunt Nellie. I am fortunate to have a godly person in my life with that kind of wisdom. 
The camp meetings are an integral part of the narrative, yet I was torn, wondering if there was a way to get this most important message across without being preachy. It felt like the book was only a vehicle for the message at that point. 
On to more positive. Having survived my own kids’ teenage years, I can identify just a pinch with Rachel who feels she is desperately trying to find her place in her stepchildren’s lives, let alone hearts. What a tough journey she undertakes, so courageously! 
Quotables I loved: 
Aunt Nellie’s goal: “Her goal is to make one person smile every single day.” Definitely one of my goals. 
“God won’t guide his footsteps unless he’s willin’ to move his feet.” God works best in those willing to obey. 
And lastly, a prayer for my adult children. “I pray you never disdain prayer. It’s the simplest way you can serve our Lord, and suffering won’t hold you from it…”  
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own and no review was required. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Beverly Lewis, raised in Pennsylvania Amish country and both a schoolteacher and an accomplished musician, has been an award-winning author for over a dozen years. Her acclaimed novel, The Preacher’s Daughter, was a 2006 Quill Book Award finalist in the romance category. Her books have appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including USA Today and The New York Times. She and her husband, David, live in Colorado.”

 

 

 

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The Sound of Distant Thunder, #1 The Amish of Weaver’s Creek by Jan Drexler

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

TITLE: The Sound of Distant Thunder,#1 The Amish of Weaver’s Creek

Paperback, 352 pages

ISBN:9780800729318

PUBLISHER: Revell

PUBLISHED: September 18, 2018

Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents’ insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother’s name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother’s place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation?

From the talented pen of Jan Drexler comes this brand new Amish series set against the backdrop of the Civil War. She puts her characters to the test as they struggle to reconcile their convictions and desires while the national conflict threatens to undermine and engulf their community.

 

MY REVIEW:

An old-order Amish community, making every effort to keep itself separate from the world, finds it cannot escape the distant rumblings of war. We view the Weaver’s Creek community mostly through the eyes of young Katie and Jonas, who hope to wed but are slowed by their youth and the worldly changes that intrude even upon those who would ignore them.

War is such a divisive subject in any era. In the United States, the Civil War was arguably one of our most contentious as it divided friends and families and our nation itself. Then add to that, the idea of an Amish man considering joining ranks of the volunteers, and the incredibility of the situation just skyrockets. Indeed, the Amish of Weaver’s Creek believe they can look the other way until conscription begins…and names on the list include Englischers and Amish alike.

What didn’t I like about the book? It made me think. I couldn’t find any easy answers. I wanted to vilify one character (and his choices) or the other. The black and white lines blurred into gray and blue… and red. Red for loss of life, loss of a way of life, loss of innocence and standing apart from the world.

A wise quote for today: “Labeling folks with ideas different from your own as “them” and calling yourself “us” is the surest way to create division.” Hm… I do believe many, many groups today could profit from this bit of wisdom.

What a heart-warming, yet heart-wrenching family-centered novel about one of the darkest times in our nation’s history.

I gratefully received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions, for which I am solely responsible. I was not required to leave a positive review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of thirty-five years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their expanding family.

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