We've been through many of life's ups and downs together in Willow Ridge. There are the characters who have been present since the beginning. One of those is Miriam, who seems to be the heart of the community, who sees the best in almost everyone and who always has an open ear and a tasty baked good to offer to anyone in need. At the other extreme is Hiram Knepp, the now ex-communicated bishop who continues to show up and wreak havoc on the good folks of Willow Ridge.
Harvest of Blessings introduces a new character, or rather brings back a former resident to Willow Ridge -- Nora. Nora returns home after sixteen years with lots of secrets and little chance of ever being able to fit back into the town -- particularly because of her own family's feelings toward her. Her appearance stirs things up and forces the entire community to make difficult decisions about compassion and forgiveness.
While I am sad to know this series is about to end with only one more book, I am excited to know that Nora's story is a launching point for a whole new series Charlotte is working on.
If you are a fan of great Amish fiction, you should enjoy Harvest of Blessings. But first you will definitely want to read the previous four books in the series. Thanks to Charlotte Hubbard and Goddess Fish Promotions for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Be sure and read through to the end of this post for a chance to win a prize. One randomly drawn commenter will receive a $50 Amazon/BN gift card.
About the Book:
The tranquil little town of Willow Ridge is facing a startling challenge. Wealthy Nora Glick Landwehr is determined to make it her home again—and put her past to rest. Cast out by her own family, Nora can’t reconcile with Old Amish ways or her strict father. But she’ll do anything to help her community embrace the future . . . and make amends to the daughter she had to give up. So, she certainly has no time for her reckless new neighbor Luke Hooley. They disagree about almost everything. And how can she trust him if he always seems to believe the worst about her? Somehow, though, his unexpected support and passionate heart are helping her find her own way in faith. And Nora will discover that even in the face of insidious lies and unyielding judgment, God creates unexpected chances for forgiveness—and love.
Enjoy an Excerpt from Harvest of Blessings:
As Miriam pulled seven loaves of bread from the oven early Saturday morning, she savored the silence of the Sweet Seasons kitchen. This time before her partner Naomi Brenneman and her waitresses arrived was always her chance to think things through, and the past twenty-four hours had given her quite a lot to consider.
Lord, I hope You’ll hold Nora and Lizzie and Wilma and Millie in Your healin’ hands, she prayed as she measured flour for the day’s pie crusts. And I hope You’ll open Gabe and Atlee’s hearts, as well. But Your will be done.
Miriam chuckled, at herself mostly. It seemed that telling God what to do rather than asking Him was an easy habit to fall into. Her visit with Nora yesterday, followed by the unfortunate scene with Gabe in the dining room, had made her think a lot about whether some of the Old Order ways came more from men’s insistence on control than from consulting God about the right way to handle their childrens’ mistakes. In some districts, expressing such an idea out loud might be considered reason for requiring a member to repent. But that didn’t stop a lot of Plain women from wondering if things couldn’t be different. Kinder. More loving.
“Miriam, when I die and go to heaven, please God, I believe it’ll smell a whole lot like your kitchen,” came a voice through her open window.
Miriam laughed. “Tom Hostetler, I believe you’re beggin’ for a sample,” she called out. “My stars, I can’t think you’ve already milked your cows.”
“I get up earlier when I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Jah, I know all about that.” As the bishop walked in, Miriam gestured toward a tall stool near her work area. “And between you, me, and this countertop, my heart’s achin’ for the Glick women. Every one of them had their lives turned upside down sixteen years ago when Gabe sent Nora away, and now they’re goin’ through it again.”
Tom smiled ruefully. “I knew you’d see it that way, just as I could’ve predicted Gabe’s reaction when Nora asked for his forgiveness,” he murmured. “That’s where the fish bone gets caught in my throat. She did ask. And her father flat-out refused to even give her the time of day.”
“And then there was Hiram, appearin’ from outta nowhere to get right in the thick of it,” Miriam said with a grimace. She passed Tom a serrated bread knife and went to the refrigerator for a stick of butter. “Somebody’s gotta see if this bread’s fit to eat. Might as well be us.”
Tom chuckled and selected the round, golden-brown loaf nearest him. “How much do ya recall from all those years ago?” he asked as he positioned the knife on the bread. “Hiram was the bishop then, and Gabe and I were preachers, with your Jesse servin’ as our deacon.”
“It was all so hush-hush. Nora’d already been gone a week or so before I realized it,” Miriam replied in a far-away voice. “Wilma looked like she’d been hit by a truck, and wouldn’t—couldn’t—let on about the details Gabe forbade her to discuss. So we were left to assume that Nora was pregnant. Then, when Atlee and Lizzie suddenly had a red-headed baby—as newlyweds, without her bein’ pregnant—that pretty much told the tale.”
“Gabe insisted that the less folks knew, the less they could gossip—and other girls wouldn’t follow Nora’s sinful path.” He slathered butter on a generous slice of dense, grainy bread and handed it to Miriam. “And while Hiram and Jesse and I went along with that age-old strategy, I wondered what would become of Nora . . . how she would ever join the church or reunite with her family.”
He paused to close his eyes over a big bite of bread. “But I was the youngster—hadn’t been a preacher very long, so I didn’t make waves,” he went on. “Eventually the whole episode faded away, and Millie grew up as Atlee and Lizzie’s child.”
“Well, our days of sweepin’ it under the rug are over. Mmmm,” Miriam murmured as she took a big bite of the warm bread. “Your fresh butter almost turns this bread into dessert, Tom.”
“Nah, it’s your way of puttin’ the ingredients together that makes it special,” the bishop insisted.
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard (a.k.a. Naomi King) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.
a Rafflecopter giveaway