Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Gathering Threads by Cindy Woodsmall
GATHERING THREADS is the third book in Cindy Woodsmall's THE AMISH OF SUMMER GROVE series and also the first book I've ever read by Woodsmall, although I recognize her name as one of the top Amish fiction authors. When given an opportunity to read and review GATHERING THREADS I wondered if not having read the first two books would present a problem. For the first time ever, I found a multi-page summary, called "the story so far," at the beginning of the book. Although not filling in the full story of each characters' emotions, this summary told me enough to be off and running as I began the first page. I wish all publishers of series books would offer this simple plot summary. Avid readers know that months and even years intercede between titles within a series, and by the time we've had our hands on the latest addition, many other books and stories have crossed our paths. Just a few pages looking back could refresh readers' minds. We've all read those novels that try to fill the reader in by constantly adding little thought bubbles or flashback topics and those extras don't blend in that well. A simple summary like I found in GATHERING THREADS would be a pleasant addition.
Now for my reactions to this third novel. Ariana Brenneman, who in the previous novels found out that she and Skylar, had been placed with the wrong families after a horrendous fire at the birthing center, returns to the Amish community where she grew up after spending several months with her "real Englisch" family. Despite wanting to come back to life with the Brennemans and the cafe she had been planning when her life changed forever, Ariana can't seem to get her footing. No longer can she accept her daed's demands without questioning them, especially when he chooses the rulings of the bishop over listening to her concerns. Her fiance Rudy seems to be a bit more understanding, but her needs to stay connected to her Englisch father (an atheist, but a seeking one) and to Quill, a former Amish whose departure left the community with unanswered questions, threaten the young couple's future plans. Meanwhile Skylar who is the real Brenneman daughter (and sister to twin Abrahm) lives with her Amish parents, but does not embrace the faith. Ariana's return and her problems bring out Skylar's jealousy and insecurities. Woodsmall's plot did not follow the simplistic
lines that I expected; not everyone chooses the Amish way over the worldly one. Blind, unthinking allegiance to authority is questioned and challenged. Exposure to knowledge just for knowledge's sake is considered and its value embraced by some. I have shied away from Amish fiction because I often find the characters and plots too simplistic. A few strict Amish moved to our small Wisconsin rural community about 40 years ago, and we are now one of the largest Amish settlements in Wisconsin. We have Amish neighbors all around us; we shop their businesses, see their schools, and more. When I read Amish fiction, I want realistic, not idolized portrayals. I think Woodsmall did a good job of presenting a young woman who finds herself exposed to more of the "world" than most Amish. What her family accepts would not happen in our area, but it was an ending that fit this story.
I received a copy of this novel from Litfuse. All opinions are mine.