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Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

Hi friends! *Wave*

I'm still on blog hiatus, but I said I'd be back here and there for a few reviews and other bloggy business, so here I am. Miss you all! :)

Book Review: The Harvest of Grace

Having previously read and enjoyed Cindy Woodsmall's Sisters of the Quilt trilogy, I was glad for the chance I was given by WaterBrook Multnomah to review The Harvest of Grace (an Ada's House novel). I may have jumped the gun a bit as I hadn't realized until it arrived that it was the last book of a three-part series. Figuring I couldn't offer a fair review without having read the rest of the series and not wanting to drive myself crazy reading a hole-filled story, I picked up the first two books in the series: The Hope of Refuge (book 1) and The Bridge of Peace (book 2) so I could read through the whole Ada's House series in order.

Like Cindy Woodsmall's other Amish fiction, The Harvest of Grace intertwines the complex stories of several members of a particular Amish community, and its reader gets to shares in the ups and downs, challenges and triumphs of the so-called simple life. I particularly enjoy Cindy's multidimensional way of building characters and the internal struggle that goes on within each of them. Even the most Pollyanna-esque among the characters in this book has her own conflicted side.

The Ada's House series follows the street smart and not-at-all Amish character Cara Moore through her rocky beginnings as an exotic dancer in New York City, through her difficult transition into the Amish fold when she lands in an Amish community while on the run from a dangerous stalker and decides to stay put. This one aspect of the series is what attracted me to the book – the curiosity of what it would be like, as an outsider, to embrace the Amish lifestyle. This book also introduces Sylvia Fisher and details her own conflict in leaving home to run a farm – not a typical lifestyle choice for a young Amish woman.

The series in general and the book in particular painted quite a few strong female characters and Cindy had a delicate way about breaking female-role stereotypes, something I particularly appreciated about this series in the beginning, but which fell a bit flat by the end of the book when, in typical fashion, wedding bells trump all other pursuits for every single character in the series.

William Faulkner said the problem of the human heart in conflict with itself makes for good writing, and Cindy's way of weaving this conflict through a plot line is artful, nearly all her characters likeable. She accurately portrays the human condition and our tendency to battle between following our head and following our heart, noting the flaws within "good" characters and the redeeming qualities in the "bad" ones.

For anyone familiar with Amish fiction, the Ada's House series offers a familiar plot scheme – the grand finale and happily-ever-after finality of a sought-after wedding or five. The series, like other Amish fiction, ultimately is the telling of the various characters' winding pathway toward marriage, assuming, of course, that post-wedding life will be a happily-ever-after affair full of babies and farm chores and that this will adequately satisfy all the strong-willed women of the story.

If you're looking for a heart-warming book with a happy ending, The Harvest of Grace won't disappoint. I found it casually predictable and the complicated tapestry of events tied together a little too effortlessly, but all in all, it was a likeable story that I'd recommend. While I abhor romance novels, I enjoy Amish fiction (sometimes considered in the "romance" genre) for the mental break it gives me, so the predictability and squeaky-clean story line don't bother me much. While I think I enjoyed the Sisters of the Quilt trilogy more than this one, The Ada's House series is, in general, a good clean read that might have you longing for a bonnet of your very own.

Want a sneak peek for yourself? Read the first chapter here.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own honest appraisal of the material provided.

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