Julia Beechy’s dream of opening an Amish café comes crashing down when her mother announces that she must get married to inherit the family home. At 37 years old, marriage seems almost impossible, but the alternative would be to lose her home and move far away from Pebble Creek. Since her mother’s health is rapidly declining, Julia needs to make a decision, but sees nowhere to turn. Then, Caleb Zook steps in. At 40 years old, his time to get married is also long passed, but he’s in desperate need of a friend and is moved by Julia’s sadness, uncertain future and a desire to protect her, so he offers Julia his help and asks her to marry him. Although Julia has her doubts at first, she sees no other way and accepts, much to the joy of her mom and the rest of their community. But Julia must learn to trust God, to trust that He knows what’s best for her, and to trust Caleb. As she sees her dream of opening the café becoming a reality, the worst storm that area has seen in one hundred years hits. Who and what will be left standing? Will Julia’s and Caleb’s relationship survive the storm and her doubts?
This is a character driven story in the sense that what kept me interested or intrigued was not the story per se; it was the characters. Julia is a beautiful and sweet character who is also very insecure, thinks less of herself and is very reserved. She always has her guard up, putting a wall between her and others, so she doesn't have many friends, and she doesn't think anyone cares about her. Caleb, on the other hand, is very friendly, outspoken and outgoing, but true to his Amish ways. Both are mature and very well written characters.
Caleb’s cousin, Sharon, who is introduced along the way, is a welcomed addition in a pretty lineal story. The inclusion of Sharon’s story and point of view brings a fresh perspective and an interesting twist. But it is in writing Ada, Julia’s mother, that the author’s attention to details shines. Each main character is a juxtaposition of another: Julia with her insecurities and doubts as opposed to Caleb, so sure of himself and of their relationship. Sharon with her teenage foolishness and carelessness as opposed to Ada, who’s so wise, so centered and so aware. Even Julia’s and Caleb’s relationship is put in contrast with the relationships of much younger couples.
To me, it was the characters that really drove the story and made it strong. Had the characters not been so well developed, the story would have not kept my interest because what I thought was the biggest conflict (as suggested by the title) was resolved too soon, in the first 120 pages or so, which made me wonder where the story was going, where was the climax or anticipation. It felt rushed, as if the first half of the book was overly edited and the author’s keenly written descriptions were taken out, which made for a first half that’s well written but lacks depth. Those first hundred pages lacked the attention to detail in the story that Mrs. Chapman has accustomed us to.
But the second half of the book is full of the beautiful, insightful prose that I love in Mrs. Chapman’s work. That’s when both stories, Julia’s and Sharon’s, interlaced flawlessly and smoothly and made for a very rewarding read. The different situations the characters faced in terms of their doubts, or loss of control, or desperate need to trust God and others were so well written the reader not only sympathizes with them but can also identify with them. And Ada’s accurate quotes from the Psalms, especially to Sharon, not only ministered the characters but me as well. She is a sweet, intuitive and wise character. However, Sharon’s story was left unfinished, which was a little disappointing.
I loved the way Julia’s and Caleb’s love for each other developed and grew. It was beautifully presented and very romantic for a couple under their circumstances. Although theirs is an arranged marriage of sorts, the way the characters handled the situation, with so much care, kindness and tenderness, very true to their ages, was very refreshing and lovely.
Finally, the introduction of characters from the previous books in the series, such as Miriam, Gabe, Grace, Aaron and Lydia, flowed very nicely. Although many secondary characters were from the first books in the series, I loved the fact that the author didn't feel the need to give each character’s back story. This book can definitely stand alone.
Beautifully written characters, great lessons in God’s faithfulness and wonderfully appropriate quotes from the Psalms are the reasons why these characters will stay with you once the story ends, which makes this book a great read.
4 out of 5 stars
*I received a copy of this book from the publishers through The Christian Manifesto in exchange of an honest review.