The Amish community meets the English world in a tale that has so many turns and twists it is amazing. Secretive and sweet Lainey O'Toole ends up in the one town that forever changed her life as a child - to face the split second decision she made one night when she thought no one could see. Bertha Reihl, an elderly widow, and owner of Rose Hill Farm is out on a mission to set right the events of the past and to restore her shunned brother to the Amish community and bring a lost soul back to the flock of God. Jonah Reihl had left home after a buggy accident had killed his young wife 15 years ago with the baby he thought was his daughter. Being convinced to come back he is now forced to face the past, and is set to make a decision to open his heart to love again. Bess Reihl, the wispy yellow haired 15 year old "daughter" of Jonah is visiting Bertha ("Mammi") not knowing that in this summer she would go from child to young woman and she would be the glue and example for those around her.
This book is filled with a theme of God's grace and forgiveness - and the freedom that comes from personal forgiveness. I loved the fact that forgiveness was so central that in the midst of this story so many are faced with the choice to forgive the "unforgivable" - the one who refuses to ask for or accept forgiveness. This is the true test of one's faith - and unfortunately is the one area of forgiveness that most of us stuggle with.
Thank you Revell/Baker Publishing for this review copy.
Fisher does it again with The Search!! Beautiful!!
January 15, 2011
THE SEARCH by Suzanne Woods Fisher is the third book of her series entitled, "Lancaster County Secrets." I love Lancaster County and the people who live there. The Choice is the first in this series and The Waiting follows. Is it possible to have a favorite? I love them all, but, there is something about The Search that leaves you feeling complete. We meet Lainey O'Toole who makes a stop through Stoney Ridge on her way to new dreams, but something happens. It has been fifteen years since she left Stoney Ridge. Her heart cannot leave this place. There are secrets she is holding. The past is holding her future hostage. When she sees Bertha Riehl walk through the bakery everything changes. She once again feels a connection. Bertha has secrets of her own and is a woman who is determined to bring her son, Jonah, home once again. She invites her granddaughter, Bess, to come to Stoney Ridge for a summer visit. What a summer it turns out to be. Bess is the young girl who will bring her family together once again. This story holds forgiveness and redemption. Love and letting go. Will this family find the answers they have been searching for? I loved this book. It is so beautifully written and Suzanne has a way of just bringing the characters alive. It is as though you have taken a stop in Stoney Ridge and get to have a front row seat into the lives of those who live on Rose Hill Farm. This is one you will want to have for your reading collection.
I was curious about this series of books so when I read that Lit fuse was offering this one as a blog tour I put my name in and was lucky enough to be selected. I had submitted my name for one of the prior books but was not selected that time around to participate. It is interesting to get a peek into the lives of the Amish people. The only other fiction book I can recall reading recently about an Amish community was Jodi Picolt's Plain Truth. I enjoyed this book more than Plain Truth.
Fifteen year old Bess and her father Jonah live in Ohio in an Amish community. Jonah moved away from his father and mother after an accident between his buggy and a truck caused the death of his wife and a trial that put him in the spotlight which he was uncomfortable with. Bertha, his mother and Bess's grandmother, writes to ask that Bess come stay with her for the summer because she needs her help. It turns out there is more behind her request than might have been expected. Lainey has returned to Stoney Valley after a fifteen year absence. Her mother and baby sister died fifteen years ago at the same time as the accident and her step-father disappeared so she was taken into foster care and has been working to save money to go to culinary school. Her car dies in town and she winds up with a job in a bakery and a room to rent so she stays, becoming friends with Bess and getting reacquainted with Bertha.
I really enjoyed seeing how these lives fit together and where they went from the beginning of the story to the end. It was also heartening how much the characters trusted in God for the paths that opened or closed in front of them. Lainey has some tough decisions to make based on things from the past that she trusted to God. Once I started reading I had a difficult time putting the book down. Even Bess at fifteen seemed to have more trust in her direction than many adults I've met.
One of the things Lainey notices about her Amish friends is that they accept each task for what it is and don't rush on to finish it, but value each for the worth it has. Bess shows Lainey how to wash sheets using a hand wringer. It is much harder than going to the Laundromat or using a washing machine at home, but instead of trying to hurry through this chore Bess accepts it and does it until she is done. So often I find myself rushing through something because I have more to do. Laundry for my family of 6 can be overwhelming and it seems I am always rushing to get all the chores done. I never really stop to appreciate each task for what it is. Maybe we as a non-Amish society would find more joy in things if we saw the value in them, doing laundry supplies your family with clean clothes and grocery shopping keeps your family from going hungry. That there really is a value to all the little things one does in a day.
The other thing I really noted in the book and thought was of value was how willing neighbors were to help each other out and to put their resources together for the good of the whole. Two characters get married in the story and the whole community pools there glasses and chairs and plates so there is enough for the celebration. So often people are unwilling or afraid to share with others, but these people valued each other more than their possessions and really connected with one another.
Bertha Reihl of Rose Hill Farm, is a bit intimidating, as tough as boots on the outside, but on the inside she is really an old softie.After the death of her husband, Samuel, a few years back, she slowly started converting her pastures into a place to plant her roses. She does a pretty good business selling salves, roses and her rose petal jam, so well in fact that she has hired 18 year old Billy Lapp to help her.
Its been a few years since her son Jonah and her 15 year old grand daughter Bess has come from Ohio for a visit, so she sends them a letter stating she needs help recovering from her women's surgery. Bess decides to go spend the summer with her grandmother. While picking roses isn't something she really relishes, when she meets Billy she thinks he is the most handsome boy she has ever saw, and things might not be so bad on her grandmothers farm.
Lainey O'Toole was Bertha's neighbor 15 years ago, and while traveling thru on her way to New York as fate would have it, her car breaks down in Stoney Brook in front of a diner, who was looking for a baker, she decides to stay for the summer, wanting to reconnect with Bertha, the lady who was so kind to her in her youth. There is a secret that Lainey has kept for 15 years, something that will affect several people. What will happen when the secret is out in the open?
Another great story from Suzanne Woods Fisher. A story about how the truth can free you from your past, and of course the value of forgiveness. I enjoyed the characters in this story, and think my favorite was Bertha, for an Amish grandmother she had a wacky sense of humor. The story was very well written, the author grabs and holds your attention, keeping you wondering how things will turn out.
While this is the third book in the Lancaster Co. Secrets series it can easily be read as a stand alone work. A a fan of Amish fiction I have read all three in the series and would say fans of Amish inspiration, or someone just looking for a good clean read would enjoy this series. There are also discussion questions included at the end of the book.
Amish novels have become a staple in the Christian fiction marketplace during the past several years. After reading several predictable Amish fiction novels, they have not been on the top of my reading list. The synopsis of The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher intrigued me and enticed me to give Amish fiction another try.
In the quiet Amish community of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, past secrets are revealed and lives are connected in unexpected ways. Lainey O'Toole, a young English woman finds herself stranded in her hometown of Stoney Ridge on her way to culinary school. Expecting to stay just a few days, Lainey soon realizes that God has other plans for her future. Bertha Reihl is a past acquaintance of Lainey's and a staple in the Amish community with a reputation for her stubborn streak and her sweet roses. Bertha coaxes her teenage granddaughter, Bess, to live on her rose farm for the summer. Like Lainey, Bess's journey to Stoney Ridge is ultimately a life-changing journey. As their lives entwine, Lainey, Bess, Bertha, and their families are forced to confront consequences of their past decisions while reexamining their faith and discovering the power of love and forgiveness.
The Search is a quick and enjoyable read that offers a departure from the more formulaic Amish novels that I have read in the past. Although this book is part of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. Characters from The Choice and The Waiting make appearances in The Search, but each novel focuses on different characters and situations. Fisher writes the novel from several different perspectives, primarily those of Lainey and Bess. As I read the novel, I found myself more drawn to Bess's character. Over the course of the book, Bess blossoms into a compassionate and strong young woman. Her journey is heartwarming and inspiring, and I hope that her story will continue. I felt less connected to Lainey, who makes several life-changing decisions, but easily transitions into her altered lifestyle. I would have enjoyed a closer look into Lainey's adjustment to her new life.
Suzanne Woods Fisher reintroduced me to Amish fiction, and I plan to read The Choice and The Waiting. In today's technological world, the Amish lifestyle is often viewed as idyllic and simple. It is often hard to imagine that the Amish have faults and face daily challenges like the rest of society. Amish fiction offers readers a glimpse into the lifestyle that we find fascinating as outsiders and takes us on a journey to the picturesque farmlands, without leaving our modern comforts.