By: Shelley Shepard Gray
Releasing January 26, 2016
Shelley Shepard Gray’s first book in her Charmed Amish Life series is set in the quaint Amish village of Charm, Ohio, and tells the stories of the Kinsinger siblings who are each struggling to find both forgiveness and love in the face of tragedy.
Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family. Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close friendship.
Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.
Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find the time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.
As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?
Review by Deb Czajkowski
Because I’m a football fan, I’m going to start with a football analogy. Let’s say there are ten seconds left in the game and the home team is down by two points. The kicker runs onto the field to kick the score that would win the game, but the kick is blocked and the home team loses. Should the kicker now be held solely responsible for his team’s loss? Should he now be kicked off the team?
If you’re a football fan, you’ll know that a football game has sixty minutes of playing time, sixty minutes for the team as a whole to score points. But, also in those sixty minutes, players drop passes, miss tackles, fumble the ball, and commit errors that result in penalties. Many players and many actions ─both positive and negative─ make up a game. And when the sixty minutes are up, the team with the most points on the board wins, and the other team loses.
John Kurst had worked for Kinsinger Lumber Mill for many years, until the day he threw a rag, dampened with a flammable liquid, into the dumpster. A fire started in the dumpster that killed five people, including John. The fire, of course, was investigated and ruled an accident. Many contributing factors, many errors, were identified; John’s act may have been the last one, but it was just one of the many.
Still, countless people blame John. Blame him entirely. They consider him to be the ten second kicker, and they want him kicked off the team! Wait. Isn’t he already gone? Isn’t he dead? True, but his family is still there. The people of Charm can’t punish John, but they can punish his family ─his wife and his six children. Until his wife can’t take it anymore, can’t take any of it, can’t take all of it. One day she simply walks out of the house, out of Charm, and out of the lives of her children.
Darla Kurst is John’s eldest child, so now, with both father and mother gone, the responsibility for the family is hers. She’s working at the post office during the day so they have income, but evenings are spent on household chores and family needs. That alone is difficult for her, a young woman, but the hardest part is facing the townspeople every day, hearing them blame her father, hearing them blame her.
And then there’s Lukas Kinsinger, her best friend for as long as she can remember. He still wants to be her friend, but even that is complicated. It’s complicated for two primary reasons: 1. He’s a Kinsinger; the lumber mill is his family’s. Many people want him to shun her for the deeds of her father ─certainly to no longer be her friend, or, worse yet, want to help her. 2. Darla’s feelings of friendship toward Lukas long ago turned to love. Now, to be merely friends, to see the pity in his eyes, is just too painful.
Will the town of Charm ever come to understand, to forgive? Can Darla’s family learn to work together in the absence of both parents? Can Darla find a way to accept Lukas’s hand of friendship?
A son’s vow conveys the strong feelings that result from tragedy. The author, Shelley Shepard Gray, shows us in her novel how suffering a personal loss, especially in a tragedy, can sometimes interfere with our seeing the facts. Our hurts interfere with our healing; blaming others can feel like we’re keeping our loved ones alive. Shepard Gray also shows us how carrying anger and withholding forgiveness is an awful poison, harming ourselves as well as those around us.
A son’s vow is a wonderful story of faith and forgiveness, of finding a way to go on ─creating a new normal─ after tragedy. No matter how your story reads, whether your journey has included many twists and turns, whether you’ve encountered more than your share of ups and downs, or whether you’ve experienced real tragedy, a son’s vow will show you that you’re not alone. And because life often throws challenges in our paths, we must take joys when we find them. I found a son’s vow to be one of those joys. I hope you will, too.
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Hold Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
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