Saturday, December 22, 2012

"An Amish Gift" by Cynthia Keller - REVIEW

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the author of An Amish Christmas and A Plain & Fancy Christmas comes a heartwarming novel of marriage and family, new beginnings and poignant homecomings—just in time for the holidays.
After her husband, Shep, loses his latest job, Jennie Davis is grateful to be in a car en route to beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Shep has inherited a house from a distant cousin, along with the cousin’s long-established bicycle shop. The move gives Jennie, Shep, and their two children a welcome chance for a fresh start.
While Shep dives into his new venture at the bike shop, Jennie carefully restores their broken-down house. She loves being a stay-at-home mom but yearns to find some fulfillment outside of her family—particularly as they struggle financially. On morning walks, she forges a friendship with her Amish neighbor, Mattie Fisher, who opens up about her modest way of life. Mattie’s unswerving good character in the face of adversity encourages Jennie to seek practical solutions to her own difficulties. A passing remark by Jennie’s son transforms desperation about their finances into inspiration, leading her to embark upon a candy-making enterprise.
Soon, Jennie’s newfound purpose collides with Shep’s growing stress at work and long-simmering tensions between husband and wife rise to the surface. As the holiday season approaches, their family is challenged as never before—until an unexpected visitor arrives to give Jennie the greatest gift of all.

My Take:
3 Stars

Jennie, her husband Shep, and her two children are in the car, on their way to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to live in a house they have just inherited from a distant relative, Lucky thing, too, as their own house was headed towards foreclosure. 
Her husband, Shep, had just been fired from his former job just prior to inheriting this home, and also inheriting a NEW job, too. A bicycle store from this same relative. 
Shep is against his wife, Jennie, working because he wants her to stay home and raise the children, (and this is repeated several times through the story which was a little irritating to me), and this really bothered Jennie. Sure, it's nice to be home with the children, but when it is clearly evident that a second income is needed to help the family out, Shep is still against it.
When the family arrives at the house, it is not what they expect. In fact, it is in much worse condition than they could ever have imagined, and being in such financial straights, they could not even afford to paint the inside rooms of the house. Jennie makes due with what they have and tries to make the house as comfortable as she can.
At Shep's new job, he ends up coming home from work and turning to drinking beer. 
Another thing is Shep does not want Jennie to see inside the bicycle shop, and this bothers her. She feels as if he is hiding something.
Jennie takes their dog on a daily walk. During this time, she meets her friendly Amish neighbor. Sometimes they even get to talking. This Amish woman is not stand-off'ish like some Amish people can be towards the English. Jennie is quite happy with this. This Amish woman really impresses her because of all the children she has and all of the cooking as well.
Through the story, these two women and their families become closer and closer, and form a close friendship. and each family helps each other out in many ways. Jennie even starts to make candy - peanut brittle, the first of her candies she makes to sell at a local Farmer's Market. She does this as a way to earn extra money for her family, and becomes very good at it and successful. Her candy business is growing by leaps and bounds, all the way to having someone in the family being able to build a website to sell the candy on the internet.
Shep eventually starts to come around, especially as he learns how much of a success his wife has made her candy business into a success. Jennie ends up getting the entire family to go to the bicycle shop and they work at getting  the bicycle shop up and looking a lot better, even painting it.
Jennie does learn a lot about the amish, and that less is more, and she tries to incorporate this into her own family life. 
This story was enjoyable, but it felt too rushed, almost like something was missing from it. Perhaps it was too rushed given the time span it covered, about a year and a half, or two Christmas' worth, and so much happened in such a short amount of time. This is a nice, feel-good type of book.
Everything in this story worked out so well, despite some of the family's problems. All the problems turned out to have a happy ending. Maybe if this book did had the chance to go a little deeper into the story line, it would have lived up more of what I expected it to. Not all stories have every part of it turn out to have such a happy ending to all of their problems like this one did, too.
Another part of the difficulty I had with this story and why it felt so rushed to me, as I've already said, was all of this was fit into 256 pages, and that was not enough to get very deep or more into the details of the story. We did get to learn how she felt at times, her deep concerns about money and making ends meet and the difficulty about her marriage, and trying to make life simpler for her family, yet at the same time it became more difficult with her new business. Making their life trying to be simpler, for me, didn't work. This author just added Amish characters who live the simple life. This is where I believe the story didn't work for me.
I never made friends with Jennie. She was only a character in a book. All of the characters in this book were just that. Characters. I never made a bond with them. All I did was read about them. 
This book is a take it or leave it for me. 
I received this book for FREE from Random House Publishing through NetGalley in exchange to read and then write a review about it. It is NOT required for this review to be either positive or negative, but of my own honest opinion. “Free” means I was NOT provided with ANY MONIES to read this book nor to write this review, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255,
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

An Amish Gift: A Novel by Cynthia Keller

Print Book: $10.88
Ebook:        $  9.99


Praise for Cynthia Keller’s heartwarming Amish novels 
An Amish Christmas 
“This little book is a holiday charmer young and old will find appealing.”—Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star
“[A] sweet, poignant story.”—USA Today

An Amish Christmas: A Novel by Cynthia Keller

Hardcover or Paperback not available thru Amazon unless you go through other sellers
This is a LINK to the Ebook: $9.99 - Click on the photo of the book!

A Plain and Fancy Christmas
“[This novel] does what a good holiday tale should; it invites readers to turn off the cellphone and television and wrap themselves up in a warm, compelling story.”—Lincoln Journal Star
“A wonderful read for the Christmas season.”—FaithfulNews

A Plain & Fancy Christmas: A Novel by Cynthia Keller

Print Book: $11.31
Ebook:       $  9.99

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