I must admit that I judged this book by its cover and because of that I put off reading it. I enjoy Amish fiction and am always eager to read a new author but this one just didn't appeal to me. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
Adina Senft has a wonderfully engaging writing style that doesn't at all match up with the cover art. The story is quite modern and can easily be compared to other very well known Amish writers. I will most definitely be reading more of Adina's books.
Herb of Grace introduces us to Sarah Yoder who is a young widow. She's struggling to raise her two boys, Simon age seventeen and Caleb age fourteen. Her strength of character is what drew me into the story. Sarah has many obstacles in her way but she is determined to make a life for her and her boys.
One of the most interesting characters is Ruth Lehman who is a Dokterfraa, or an herbal healer. From the beginning Ruth sees that Sarah has to skills and tenacity to also become a healer. Because of their differing personalities they don't really give each other the warm fuzzies but it is a relationship that is intense and heartwarming in the end.
If you like Amish fiction you should check this title out. It is the first book in a three book series. I'm looking forward to reading the next two titles and also going back and reading several of Adina's other books.
I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Many Amish novels tend to skewer the Amish community, making them appear surrealistic instead of human beings. However, Adina Senft writes very realistically, showing them as people who though live differently deal with issues common to mankind. The author shows how faith might be lived out in various situations such as teenagers running away, working a job that is honest, and the support of family along with community.
For me, this work was a first for me and I enjoyed reading the story that centered on a small community widow, wondering if God is leading her to be an herbalist and waiting for Gods will to be revealed. The moment I opened the book I was lost in another world that consumed my attention from start to finish. A major theme in the book is faith lived by being still, listening for Gods voice, praying and choosing to forgive.
Audiences will be absolutely engaged in the story, enjoying the tension in some of the relationships that are prominent in the small community. All will be reminded to talk to God no matter what action the body is doing, and at times, responding with tears or joy. The sequel to Herb of Grace has been released and is titled, Keys of Heaven. To understand the flow of the story, reading the books in order is highly recommended.
Rare combination of good story and insights into life
August 13, 2014
Oak Harbor, WA
Herb of Grace is one of those rare novels that combines a good story with insights into life and meaningful lessons on living it.
Sarah is a young widow in the Amish community. She is trying to make ends meet while raising two teenage sons by selling the herbs she grows. Her sons help out as they can, younger Caleb getting odd jobs while the older Simon is in an apprenticeship learning to make buggies. Ruth, the herbalist who buys Sarah's herbs, suggests that she consider being a healer. Ruth believes it might be Sarah's calling a gift from God. Sarah is not so sure.
Henry has been gone from the Amish community for decades when he inherits his aunt's farm. Recovering from disastrous reviews of a gallery showing of his sculptures, he has escaped to the farm, pottery equipment stored in the barn. He is Englisch, never having joined the church. Having left everything behind all those years ago, including his religion, how was he going to be welcomed back?
The novel follows Sarah, trying to understand what God has for her. A very large part of her life is her sons. When Simon begins to feel his way into adulthood, she experiences the anxiety, the difficulty of trusting God, that parents of teenagers know so well. A challenge Sarah faces in her pursuit of a healing role is when she tries to help an older couple, both suffering from a hurt much deeper than her herbs can fix.
There are a number of issues in the novel that gave me much to think about. How does God lead us into the calling for our life? How do we know if a certain someone is God's choice for our life? What do we do when we feel we are called to help others yet are faced with someone in so much need yet refusing what we offer? When is it right to get into somebody else's business?
One theme really stood out to me. Many of the weeds I pull in my vegetable or flower gardens might actually be plants with beneficial characteristics. It made me wonder how many gifts God has given me and I just thought they were weeds in my life.
Herb of grace is a folk name for rue, a bitter and astringent herb used in small quantities for digestive ailments. In this novel, grace comes through to break barriers and restore relationships. Be sure to have your tissues ready, although you may be surprised for the reason. I was.
I have not read too many novels in the Amish genre. I found this on to be realistic, I think. I was surprised at how the teens within the community behaved, sort of like teens in any community. I was surprised that a buggy would have a CD player!
This is a good novel all around. It is a touching story and contains many thought provoking insights into life. I found it to be a very rewarding novel to read. There is a discussion guide at the end of the book and it would be a good choice for reading groups.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
"Herb of Grace" is penned with poetic license. Descriptive, pictorial and expressive, this Amish novel by Adina Senft is a favorite. The characters throughout this novel show strength, sensitivity and commitment through their personalities and actions. Family, faith and devotion are very strong features in this beautifully composed story of an Amish woman, her dreams and relationships, and a former Amish man who has returned to his family's roots. Challenges ensue in the lives of the characters whose stories lie within the pages of this book, and the underlying echoes of faith, conscience and strong convictions are portrayed with substance and integrity.
Contained in "Herb of Grace" are beautiful expressions so poetic that I found myself marking places throughout the book to reread just for the beauty of the description. Example: "She tipped her head back to watch the new leaves combing the last trailing skeins of mist the way a woman might run her fingers through her hair." I will be rereading this book, not only for its strength in plot and character, but for the poetic beauty contained within. I highly recommend "Herb of Grace!"
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
An extraordinary beginning to a promising new series
August 4, 2014
Blissful sigh! An extraordinary beginning to a promising new series.
First off the cover art is...well...art! I love the soft edges, muted tones and hushed colours. And the entire series evokes the same mood -- the perfect introduction to the Healing Grace series. You can check out the other covers here: http://adinasenft.com/books/
In this first book, Senft settles her readers into a lively Amish community and promises us many enjoyable hours there. I loved getting to know Sarah and her large extended family. Feeling the pulse of the community on market day. Being drawn into the hearts of so many who need healing. Most notable is Sarah herself, a widow struggling to raise two boys on her own. None of it is easy and though she bears her heart to God she isn't always prepared to follow through with the promptings she feels. I loved that about her, because it's so real and relatable. But oh my goodness, when she does listen to the whisperings of the Spirit amazing things happen!
I get the feeling that Henry is on the cusp of finding his way back home after years of self-enforced exile. His journey has just begun in Herb of Grace, with enough of an open-ended story thread left at the conclusion that promises so much more. I'm hoping that includes a special relationship with Sarah, but only the author knows for sure. I will impatiently be waiting for the release of the next book and the one after that so all my questions can be answered.
And that brings me to the fact that this is a continuous series. Usually I avoid those like the plague, but I make some exceptions and this one is definitely worth the agony of waiting for the whole story to unravel despite the tumultuous ending in Herb of Grace. But while there is still havoc on the horizon for Sarah, she has discovered the special peace that surpasses all understanding in this first book. That eases my soul as I wait to continue her story.
My thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for my review copy of this book.