Title: The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
First sentence: The aroma of fresh-baked bread, shepherd's pie, and steamed vegetables filled Lizzy's house, mingling with the sweet smell of baked desserts.
My synopsis: Lizzy had been worried about Beth, her niece, for awhile. The mourning period for her fiance, Henry, should have ended almost a year before - but Beth still wore the traditional black, visited his grave regularly, and didn't allow herself any time to feel joy.
When Beth finally goes on a much-delayed buying trip, she wanders into Pete's Antiques, a store that wasn't on her agenda. She finds an Amish carving of children playing in the snow. Something about the carving touches deep inside her, and on a whim she buys it. She questions Pete about the carver, even though she knows her Bishop will not allow her to carry carvings in her store for Amish or Englischers. When she discovers that the carver is Amish, she feels she might have a chance.
Unfortunately her Bishop doesn't budge on his stand concerning carvings so Beth hopes that Lizzy will travel to meet the carver and hopefully sway the Bishop into agreeing. Lizzy makes the trip because this carving has woken something in Beth that hasn't been there since Henry died. Lizzy is hoping it will be enough to bring the old Beth back. She expects to meet an elderly gentleman, as Pete from the antique store referred to him as Old Man. Instead, she meets Jonah - a 20-something, single, Amish man who walks with a cane and is missing two fingers. She senses that he has had to endure pain/hardship in his life and hatches a plan. Since she and her niece share the same name, Elizabeth Hertzler, and they both work in Hertzlers' Dry Goods, she asks Jonah if they can communicate by mail and hopefully work out a business arrangement that will benefit them both - but, she asks him to address his letters to Beth - never letting on that she is not Beth.
When Jonah's first letter arrives, Lizzy makes sure that Beth gets it, and is encouraged when Beth writes back. Beth finds herself opening up to Jonah in the letters, thinking she is writing to an impartial older lonely man - not one of the young men that she distrusts so much. Well, you guessed it, before long Jonah figures out that Beth is not Lizzy and calls Lizzy to find out why the deception? Lizzy tells Jonah what she knows of Beth's mourning and eventually Jonah comes around - even though he feels that this deception is not the best way to start a friendship.
When Beth discovers that Jonah is not who she thought he was - will the embarrassment and humiliation be too much for her to salvage the tentative friendship that had started?
My thoughts: This is my second Cindy Woodsmall book, and I think I enjoyed it more than the first one - The Hope of Refuge. I liked the way that the friendship starts and you can feel the hurt and disappointment when they both think that their friendship is going to crash and burn. The reason for Beth's long mourning period, when it was finally revealed, came as a huge surprise to me - but it helped explain why Beth thought she had to shoulder Henry's death all by herself. The tone/style of Cindy's books I find to be very relaxed and flowing - sort of how I would picture Amish life - not rushing - but moving forward steadily and faithfully. Even though the title and the cover might have you thinking this is a Christmas read - it really isn't - it would be good to read at any time and I highly recommend it.
There was a part in the book, as I was reading it this evening, that really spoke to me regarding a situation with my older daughter.
Mammi sighed. "If you can't carve the image you want, then carve what you can." She stepped out of the sleigh. "We take what is and trust that God is making things we can't yet see." (p131)It really put it in front of me, that I need to stop worrying so much and trust that God will work in her life and these times will pass.
I am currently hosting a giveaway for The Sound of Sleigh Bells that ends on Oct 21. You can also purchase The Sound of Sleigh Bells by clicking the name.
*This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.