Hope Miller has moved to Pinecraft, the Amish settlement in Sarasota, Florida, along with her family for her father's health. While her sisters seem to have settled into this warm, inviting community, Hope cannot help missing home (Ohio) and especially her garden. Even though it is mid-winter back in the midwest and the sun is always shining in Florida, Hope dreams of spring planting and begins to make plans to return to Ohio as a helper to a married cousin. Also having trouble settling into his new surroundings is widower Jonas Sutter who has traveled south with his young daughter to be a substitute teacher at the Pinecraft school for the remainder of the year. The two "transplants" meet when Hope rescues Jonas's young daughter from an overturned canoe. Soon Jonas becomes part of a plan to make Hope more settled and content by creating a garden behind the pie shop. While Hope believes the garden will be her place of solitude and peace, the community has other ideas.
This is definitely a gentle read, one centered around the benefits of gardening. An old journal, written by a woman who created a community "Victory" garden in Sarasota during WWII, provides the thoughtful thread about gardening and the benefits that go beyond mere food. I found the characterization of Hope to be a bit unusual for an Amish novel, as she is a bit more flawed than more females I've read in other works. She is quite a loner, not so much shy, as just preferring to do things her way according to her plans. Her Loner personality is what provides the "nugget" for the story's plot and the tie-in with the journal.
I've been interested in Pinecraft ever since I learned of its existence. I've followed Sherry Gore's blog, her cookbooks, and her autobiography, and have learned a bit about this unusual community from her writings. I had hoped to visit Pinecraft when we traveled to Anna Maria Island two years ago, but it did not happen. Something that remains on my bucket list. It was my interest in the community that led me to borrowing this title from the library and purchasing book one in the series for my Nook. I wish I could say that I loved the book as I do admire both authors and have read other titles by both. But I really struggled to stay interested in this one; it was JUST TOO QUIET and uneventful for me. Perhaps it was because I was busy weeding perennial beds and preparing our raised beds for planting that I felt the gardening scenes were just too idealistic and whitewashed.
I never really sensed the planning, the dirt under the nails, and the hard work of a real garden. I came in from our "real" yard after hours of work, ready for relaxing and entertaining reading, but found I had trouble staying interested in Hope's story. That said, I am still interested in reading MADE WITH LOVE, the first book in the series, and I eagerly await SEWN WITH JOY, the September release of the next book.