PROS: Wisconsin setting brings something new to the genre; great characterisation; engaging sub-plot
Gabriel Yoder decides to uproot himself and his daughter and move to a new community in Wisconsin, hoping that this will help them to move on from the death of Hope, his wife and Grace's mother. The Pebble Creek community is far more conservative than they're used to - no indoor toilets, no heated buggies and ice boxes rather than gas-powered fridges - but a new start is necessary. But Gabriel doesn't expect Grace's new schoolteacher to become such a large part of their lives. Grace quickly becomes attached to Miriam King, but Gabriel doesn't appreciate the teacher meddling in their lives. Although his daughter hasn't spoken since her mother died, Gabriel has learned to adapt to Grace's needs and thinks that Miriam's suggestions will be more harmful than helpful. But as Gabriel and Grace become more integrated into the Pebble Creek community and start to open up to their neighbours, he comes to appreciate Miriam's help, especially when tragedy strikes during a snowstorm. Will their relationship become something more than one between a concerned teacher and loyal parent?
There have been times when I have a large stack of books waiting to be reviewed, all from the same genre, and I find myself wondering if I might end up getting bored or find it hard to review yet another Amish novel. I love Amish fiction, but reading one book after another about the same topic can make me feel a bit Amished-out. I really didn't know what to expect from A Promise for Miriam. When I started this book, I needed to escape. I was buried in wedding stress and the audiobook I'd picked up from the library contained so many divorces and broken relationships that I was starting to feel a bit discouraged. Knowing that A Promise for Miriam was next on my list, I felt a bit happier, as I've rarely come across a depressing Amish novel. I figured that even if this book didn't completely blow my mind, it would at least be a nice, easy read. Well, it was far more than that, and it did end up encouraging me, in more ways than one.
Firstly, the relationships between Gabriel and Grace, Miriam and her parents, Miriam and her fellow schoolteacher, not to mention Gabriel and Miriam, and those of the general community, were very heart-warming. In a world where everyone is out to help themselves, often at the expense of others, it really encouraged me to see how everyone in the community pitched in to help Gabriel and his daughter. I may have had a tear in my eye at a couple of points, but then again, I am overly emotional right now. But even if you don't end up bawling your eyes out at this book, I'm sure you'll be able to appreciate the beauty in the way that the Amish reach out to each other.
I was also incredibly encouraged to find that, even if there are probably around a hundred new Amish books coming on to the market this year, authors can still come up with new and original material. I did not feel Amished-out in the slightest while reading A Promise for Miriam and it was so refreshing to read about a new community and setting, as well as the fascinating topic of Grace's loss of speech due to a traumatic event. Both the introduction of a new community and Grace's problem were dealt with in a way that was touching and informative, without feeling overly sentimental or too much like reading a textbook.
While I loved the sweet, slowly-blossoming relationship between Gabriel and Miriam, I'd have to say that Grace was probably my favourite character in A Promise for Miriam. I'm a sucker for stories about widowers who have kids, but I've come across very few authors who can accurately write from a child's perspective. Vannetta is one of the authors who manages this well, and I loved being able to see events from Grace's point of view; it definitely brought something fresh to the story. The dynamics between Grace and her dad were brilliant as well, and it made a nice change to read about a caring, supportive Amish father for once. Even if Gabe cut himself off from the rest of the community to begin with, including Miriam, he never shut out his daughter.
As well as the insights into dealing with a child who has stopped talking, A Promise for Miriam was also educational in terms of the conflict with a businessman who wanted to start up an Amish tourist attraction in a nearby town. While I know that a lot of Amish fiction fans like to visit places like Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to see the sights and pick up some Amish-related trinkets, they might think twice about the Amish-inspired cafes and gift shops after reading A Promise for Miriam. While this sub-plot was wrapped up rather quickly, I still found it interesting to read about the dilemma over how the Amish should attempt to fight against the possibility of their community being turned into a stop on a tourist trip, as well as figuring out whether they could work with the English community to sell Amish-made goods and present an accurate depiction of their faith.
I genuinely thought that A Promise for Miriam was just going to another light read that would take my mind of the stress of planning a wedding, but I ended up falling completely in love with the characters and the community of Pebble Creek. I now recall why I thought so highly of Vannetta's debut novel, A Simple Amish Christmas, and I'm glad that she hasn't lost her touch. A Promise for Miriam brings something refreshing and original to Amish fiction and will hopefully remind many readers of why they fell in love this genre in the first place. I can't wait for to read the sequel, A Home for Lydia, in February 2013.
Miriam is the school teacher and at the age of 26 she is not sure if she will ever marry. She has resigned herself to her teaching which she loves but when Gabriel Yoder shows up in her class room with a young mute little girl she finds herself struggling to keep the line between teacher and friend in check while she helps Grace to speak again. Gabe has moved to Pebble Creek to start over after losing his wife three years ago. He does not want help from anyone and only wants to raise his daughter and be left alone. Though one cold winter night he finds himself in need and the community comes to the rescue. Gabe starts to rethink his plans. Will his new plans include one pretty school teacher?
This is the 2nd book I have read from this author and I really liked it. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.
What I liked: The characters came across very real and I found myself liking them a lot. I also liked how the little girl helped tell the story and how it added a different perspective in an adult world. I have read a few books where a child is included in the 3rd person storyline and it does not fit well but the author did a great job meshing it all together.
What I did not like: There is a sub storyline dealing with a planned tourist business that might move into Pebble Creek. To me it almost seemed like an add on and really did not add a lot to the storyline. It did help build the characters but it seemed to slow the book down towards the end.
Over all I really liked this book. I am hoping that we might hear more from Grace in future books of the series. She was such a sweet little girl! I highly recommend this book!
Widower, Gabe Miller and his 8 year old daughter, Grace, have
just moved into an old farm in an Amish community in Wisconsin.Â Â He plans to start a new life by taking care of everything himself, without help from others.Â Â Happy and friendly Grace doesn't speak but she draws like a dream.Â Â Gabe starts her in the Amish school, where Mariam King teaches.
Twenty six year old Mariam, and her friend, Esther, teach the children.Â Â Grace fits in nicely, but why doesn't she speak?Â Â Mariam loves teaching and her school children, and wants to help Grace. Esther is sewing a quilt as she prepares for her upcoming wedding.Â Â Gabe questions changes for her daughter.
All Is going well, when a potential tragedy throws the whole community into action.Â Â We grow closer to all the characters , becoming part of their community through the charming writing of Vannetta Chapman.Â Â This is a well written start to a new series about this peaceful, loving, but 'character filled' Amish communityÂ Â and their Englisher neighbors.Â Â
A widower, Gabriel Miller, and his daughter Grace move in next door to Amish schoolteacher Miriam King. When she goes bearing food to welcome them she finds him as a man who wants to be left alone. He spurns all offers of help to restore his barn and house. But when he takes Grace to the two-room schoolhouse for her first day at school, Miriam learns that Grace can't or won't speak. After a near tragedy Gabriel is surprised that all the community comes to his house to help. Gabriel has a past he doesn't want to talk about and is astonished at the community turning out to help him. Can he trust his secret and his heart to love again? A well written book that will pull you into reading one more chapter. Memorable characters.
Wow! And that still doesn't describe how wonderful A Promise for Miriam turned out to be. Vannetta did an awesome job pulling me into the lives of Miriam, Gabe, and Grace. I lived with them for a whole day--the amount of time it took me to read the book--and loved every minute of it. I especially loved the ending, so unexpected, but no spoilers here, so you'll have to read it to find out. :)
***I received this book free from the publisher/author for the purposes of review. The above is my honest opinion***