Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Heirloom by Beverly Lewis
Series: The Heritage of Lancaster County #0.5
on September 12, 2023
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple
After her widowed father remarries, nineteen-year-old Clara Bender is no longer needed to help run his household. Marriage seems like her best hope of moving out, but there are few young men in her tiny Indiana Amish community. When she comes across letters from her mother's aunt Ella Mae Zook, she sets off to visit Lancaster County's Hickory Hollow to decide where her future lies.
Ella Mae is not quite ready to move from the farmhouse where she and her recently deceased husband spent over fifty happy years, but her children are eager to resettle her, making Clara's visit seem like an answer to prayer. The two women form a warm bond while restoring an heirloom wedding quilt and sharing their lives, with Ella Mae confiding about a tragedy from her courting years. Eventually, Ella Mae suggests Clara stay for the summer, allowing Ella Mae more time with her and giving Clara an opportunity to meet the area's eligible young men. But when the unexpected happens, will Clara find where her heart truly belongs?
Several years ago, I stumbled across my first Amish Romance, The Shunning, and entering Beverly Lewis’ Amish world captivated me and I’ve loved reading about the Amish people ever since. Imagine my delight to see that Beverly Lewis returned to that world to write a prequel about events before The Shunning with a new heroine seeking answers and finding a chance at friendship and romance in the homey and heartwarming Amish world.
The Heirloom begins in an Amish community some distance from Lancaster County’s Hickory Hollow when Clara Bender’s mother dies and her father rapidly remarries to a woman who isn’t exactly warm toward her grieving step-daughter. Clara’s reeling from all this and needs time and distance from the home that no longer feels like her place. She finds letters from her mother’s aunt, sees the closeness between the two women, and decides this is a good time to discover more of her mother from the aunt in Hickory Hollow.
I was taken from the start with Clara and her need to find her own place now that she’s at loose ends. Her desire to visit Hickory Hollow is complicated by her father not wanting her there because the two Amish communities have distinct differences in how strict they will be about the tenants and practices of Amish faith. He knows she’ll meet eligible men and hear about matters from Ella Mae, but he does let her go for the visit. He was right about Clara on that count because she does meet someone nice and wants to stay in Hickory Hollow, but she is also dutiful and will obey her father. My heart agonized with her when it came right down to it after she found peace and happiness only to possibly have it snatched away.
Clara’s timing is impeccable from her great-aunt Ella Mae’s perspective because Clara’s arrival means she doesn’t have to leave her home and resettle at the insistence of her children. Clara can take care of the household, get a grip on her personal concerns, and the two different generations of women form a bond not just of family blood, but of understanding and of course, their shared belief in God and his work in their lives. Working on the heirloom quilt is a symbolic heart of it all. I couldn’t wait to get Ella Mae’s own story which she has been reticent about. There are dual plot lines that go back to Ella Mae’s youth so young Ella Mae touches the reader’s heart, too.
I like how much attention to detail and authentic the Amish community and faith feels as part of the story. Their desire to live away from the modern world to be close to God, their choice for simplicity of life, home, and work, and their tight-knit communities and families was all so vivid and as present as the characters. I’m not a sewing craft person or made from scratch always, but I get a yearning to try after reading about the Amish work- and yes, the delicious foods mentioned and made have me salivating, too.
For those looking for familiar faces from The Shunning, there is a Katie Lapp sighting and others. That said, they are background. I was happy to be back in the Hickory Hollow world and it seems there will be more books now. This will be for those who want full immersion into an Amish setting in their Inspirational Romance.
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