You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Susanna Wagler stood by the living room window watching Herman’s broad shoulders as he guided the team of horses into the field. Was he really her husband? The thought raced through her mind, and she pushed it away. These were not the thoughts a woman of God should have. Of course Herman was her husband. They had said the marriage vows in front of Bishop Jacob not three weeks ago. She could still hear Bishop Jacob’s voice intoning, “Do you, sister Susanna, believe Da Hah has given our brother Herman to you as your husband?”
The words had hung in the air only for a moment before she whispered, “Yah.”
Herman was the husband Da Hah meant for her. She had been certain of it. As certain as she could be. He was a man deeply loved by the community for his honest ways, his open face, and his dedication to the faith of the fathers. This was why she had said yah to Herman’s first timid request when he’d asked her home from the hymn singing. And so far Herman Wagler hadn’t let her down. Not like someone else had…Susanna also pushed that thought away.
She had forgotten about him—shut his memory from her mind. But even now she shouldn’t think badly of Matthew Yoder, though he had broken her heart. The truth had come out, and it was better this way. How awful would it have been if the truth had waited to appear after they were married? That was what her sister Mary told her, and she was right. Mary was wise about Matthew, having married his brother Ernest. Even before Matthew had left, Mary had seemed unsure of his intent. Older sisters were good for something after all, it seemed.
Still, Susanna tried to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt. He must have had his reasons for leaving the community. Even though she couldn’t understand them…or follow him into the Englisha world. And his reasons were obviously greater than his love for her. That was what hurt the most when he’d informed her he didn’t plan to stay in the Amish community. He hadn’t been able to tell her before, he’d said, though he’d assured her he hadn’t been playing her along all those years.
But a man didn’t suddenly make up his mind to leave, she figured. Such a desire had to have been there for a long time. Matthew had known something, regardless of how much he insisted he hadn’t. If she had loved him enough, she would have gone with him, she supposed. But how could a woman love a man who loved the Englisha world more than he loved her? Still, she had wavered for weeks over the matter. Struggled with the agony of it. Was she at fault? Did love require the sacrifice of everything…of all she held dear? Things like this land of her people? These open fields she’d grown up in? This place where she’d been born?
Matthew seemed to have no problem leaving all of it, and he’d soon put his words into action, getting himself placed in the bann in the process. As if she could face something like that. The cutting off of all contact with her past. This couldn’t be love, she’d finally told herself. She could not choose this.
So Matthew was gone.
And slowly she had put the fragments of her heart back together. Finding a piece here and a piece there that fit. Herman, with his tenderness, had helped. And her heart had healed somewhat, hadn’t it? She wouldn’t have married Herman if it hadn’t, would she?
She loved Herman. She did. Herman was the kindest man around. She should be thankful he had even considered her. Especially after Matthew left and caused such a stir in the community. No Amish young man would have been blamed for avoiding her completely, like she was a second-rate, cast-off shirt. And yet Herman hadn’t thrown her away. He had asked her home from the hymn singing and eventually asked if she would be his frau. Someone to love and cherish forever while they lived on this earth. Herman had done that, and was that not love?
Susanna’s eyes lingered on Herman’s face as he turned the team of horses around. The prancing hooves left tracks in the light dusting of the overnight snow. For a moment Herman glanced toward the house, and she ducked behind the drapes. It wouldn’t be decent for him to see her staring at him from the window. Not yet. Even if he was her husband. They should learn to know each other better first.
When Susanna stole another look, Herman was headed out over the open fields, hanging on to the lines. He is a handsome man, she told herself. And one she was thankful to have as her husband.
There was at least one brokenhearted girl in the community that she knew of. Herman had left behind Ruth Byler. She sure hadn’t kept her desires to have Herman take her home from the hymn singing a secret. And if there was one who did so openly, there had to be others who had hid their feelings. Yet Herman had chosen her.
Susanna turned back to the kitchen with a sigh. This had to stop. This wondering and puzzling over things. She had expected it would be over after the wedding. In fact, there had been plenty of signs during the weeks before the wedding that her doubts had flown away. Now they apparently were back in force.
But they would live through this, Susanna told herself. Herman loved her and she loved him. He had made that plain enough in the days since the wedding. And she had no reason to complain. She was sure Herman was aware that her heart hadn’t totally healed from Matthew, but he was being kind and understanding. What woman wouldn’t love such a man?
Susanna ran hot water into the kitchen sink while she brought the last of the breakfast dishes to the counter. Herman’s plate was sopped clean—it looked almost washed, like it always did. Even though it had been a large breakfast of eggs, bacon, and home fries she’d fixed him. Herman would have made a gut bachelor, that was for sure. The way he kept everything tidy around himself. And yet he felt the need of her, felt it necessary to bring her into his life.
Because he loved her, of course, Susanna told herself. There didn’t need to be a reason beyond that. Perhaps it was the conversation at the breakfast table this morning that was bringing this indecision up again. Well, it was more of an argument, really. Their first timid disagreement. And she had been shocked at the feelings that rose up inside of her. The insistence that Herman see things her way. And she had even grown angry, though Herman hadn’t, even as he remained firm. There would be no celebration of Christmas in their new home. And they wouldn’t be going to her parents’ place to celebrate either. It was not the way of his family, and it would not be their way.
Susanna washed the dishes and stared out the window at the snow. Soon the snow would be falling in earnest, the flakes floating past this very window. The joy and hope of Christmas would be in the air. The celebration of the Christ child in the manger would be coming. Was this feeling just an Englisha thing, like Herman claimed? He said her family had given in to worldly influences and his family had not.
Yet how could this be true? Her family didn’t celebrate Christmas like the Englisha did, with their Christmas trees and lots of store-bought presents. Nee, their celebration was simple. They began by gathering on Christmas morning for breakfast. In his deep voice, Daett would read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then the day would be spent together visiting, eating candy and goodies galore, and letting the children race around the house. Maybe that was a little like the Englisha, but she would be willing to adjust something, like leaving early, if that helped Herman get used to her family’s ways.
But Herman had said no. No hesitation, right out, flat no.
And she had gotten angry. Even her cheeks flushed and her fingers tingled. She had stood up from the table to get a drink at the sink even though her glass was still full of water. His eyes had followed her as he seemed to be waiting for harsh words from her.
But she had not spoken them. She knew that Herman, being her husband, was in the right. And she knew what he would say further on the matter—that she knew before the wedding what his feelings were. He had made no secret of them. And there had been the talk with his mamm. Herman’s mamm had made two or three special trips to the Keim farm before the wedding to visit Susanna. From that first visit, it seemed as if his mamm was sizing her up as a daughter-in-law. Would she be good enough for her Herman? That was her purpose in that first visit. She must have passed the test because there had been the second visit. That’s when Mrs. Wagler told Susanna what Herman’s favorite dishes were and how important it was to honor their family traditions. That was when she mentioned their longstanding abhorrence of the celebration of Christmas that had somehow infiltrated the community. Those visits had been uncomfortable enough, but then only two days after the wedding Herman’s mamm had showed up to help her organize her kitchen. Hadn’t it occurred to her that if Susanna needed such help she would have asked her own mamm?
Nee, she couldn’t say she didn’t know how Herman and his family felt about Christmas, Susanna acknowledged. And now with their first Christmas together approaching, Susanna was realizing it would also be her first Christmas without the joy she had experienced at home. Nee, she would never get to be at Mamm and Daett’s for Christmas morning again.
Knowing about his objections beforehand wasn’t making it any easier, no matter how often she’d told herself it should be. She had thought maybe there was some sort of compromise possible. Surely there had to be. Susanna sighed. It was useless, really. She already knew that. Hermann was handsome and nice and calm, but he was “Amish stubborn.” That was just how it was. And she was his frau.
Well, she could imagine that Christmas was no big deal. Perhaps she was being silly about such a small matter. They would find something else to do on Christmas morning.
Susanna dried the plates and placed them in the cupboard above her. She would have to learn submission, that was the only answer. This was the first big test being placed before her by Da Hah, and she would have to pass somehow. Oh, if she only could. Who would have thought she would have trouble with being a gut frau? That had been the least of her expectations. A sloppy housekeeper, perhaps, or being unable to keep up with the sewing once she had a bunch of kiener. Those things had worried her, but letting her husband have his way about Christmas had not been on her list.
Susanna closed the cupboard door. She would learn this lesson by Christmas morning. She still had time. Thanksgiving was this week, and that left nearly a month until Christmas. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would set her whole heart to the task. This would be her gift of love to Herman. She would learn to keep her mouth shut, and even if she didn’t succeed right away, it would happen. She would apologize until it did happen. Surely by Christmas the task would be done. Herman would see on that morning how much progress she’d made in fitting herself into his family’s lifestyle.
By Christmas Day she would love him fully, with all of her heart. What better wish to aim for than to live in total harmony with your husband, she decided. And love would keep growing in her heart for him. Perhaps not exactly the love she used to feel for Matthew, but a better love. A higher love. One that would grow from suffering.
Hadn’t Matthew shown her how shallow their love used to be? He’d sure been able to cast it off as if it didn’t matter.
Running to the window again, Susanna peeked out. Herman was a dim figure now, almost lost from view in the distant field. He looked intent on his work, his head bent toward the ground as his plow turned up the black dirt. Susanna turned away. How like plowing her plan was. Turning her old life under like Herman was doing to the ground today. Preparing for the spring when things come alive again. She would do the same. Plow under her selfish desires to plant a future spiritual harvest. Here was the sign as to what she should do as plain as day and right before her eyes. How like Da Hah to show her so quickly that He liked her plan. He would surely be answering her wish soon.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this short work of Amish fiction. I was skeptical since it was a Christmas book which tend to be too sugary sweet but this one was not. I look forward to reading more works by Jerry Eicher.