Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Promise for Miriam, by Vannetta Chapman

Miriam King is a sweet Amish school teacher at the Plain school of Pebble Creek who enjoys working with children. However, most Amish women her age, 26, are already married and with children. But Miriam loves her job and has not met a man whom she loves more than teaching. Until now.

A few years after the death of his wife, Gabe Miller moves to Pebble Creek with his daughter, Grace, and a strong desire to be left alone. But, as Gabe will discover, being alone is rarely an option in an Amish community, more so when it’s such a friendly, loving and accepting community as this one. With his arrival, Miriam instantly faces new challenges in her work and deep in her heart, as she tries to help Grace find her voice and Gabe find his way back to God’s grace and a new love.

It’s very unusual to find a romantic story with compelling main characters, heartwarming and moving back stories, well written second characters and side stories, a little suspense, a little funny side, and a beautiful message of love, grace and new beginnings. A Promise for Miriam has it all. This is the story of Miriam, a 26 year old Amish woman who by Amish standards should have married a few years ago and should be raising her own children instead of teaching other people’s children. She has had her suitors, but no one has captured her heart as much as her students have. When she meets Gabe and Grace, she is quite content with her life.

Miriam is immediately drawn to Grace, who has not spoken since her mother died, and wants to help her, knowing that the little girl is smart and very much able to speak. But Gabe is reluctant. He is a strong male lead, set in his ways, stubborn and in no way interested in anyone’s help. Miriam, however, is almost as stubborn as he is and very determined to help Grace even without her father’s consent. And so begins the relationship between Miriam and Gabe: sometimes sweet, other times strained; sometimes passionate, other times timid. Both Miriam and Gabe are very outspoken where Grace is concern, but when it comes to their feelings for each other, not so much.

Much like anyone else, Miriam and Gabe have a hard time admitting what is obvious to everyone else: they are falling for each other. The complexity and realness of these characters is fantastic. They are strong, but cute; stubborn, but endearing; outspoken, but shy. And the secondary characters are just as great. Mostly made up of Miriam’s family, these characters are written to steal your heart, bring wisdom and a sense of family, and community that is very common in Amish novels. The way Vannetta Chapman writes, however, any commonality is enhanced by how she uses words, settings and situations to make the ordinary just a little bit extraordinary.

I don’t want to miss the opportunity of mentioning how great a character Grace is. Not many writers know how to write children. Grace is neither too precocious nor too immature for her age. She is just right. The way her mind works, the way she acts, how she thinks is so touching, so pure, so very much like most children her age. A very well written little girl. Also, I have to say that, as a mother, Grace’s story moved me. It was hard to read how the loss of a mother can affect a child. I was constantly reading and praying, with tears in my eyes and my son in my mind, asking God to let us (me, my husband and my son) enjoy each other for many years to come.

This is a beautiful story of a first chance at love, a second chance at happiness, and God’s grace and His purpose for our lives, even in the middle of our sorrow.

4.5 out of 5 stars