PUBLICATION DATE: JULY 01, 2012
abriel Yoder decides to uproot himself and his daughter and move to a new community in Wisconsin, hoping that this will help them to move on from the death of Hope, his wife and Grace’s mother. The Pebble Creek community is far more conservative than they’re used to – no indoor toilets, no heated buggies and ice boxes rather than gas-powered fridges – but a new start is necessary. But Gabriel doesn’t expect Grace’s new schoolteacher to become such a large part of their lives. Grace quickly becomes attached to Miriam King, but Gabriel doesn’t appreciate the teacher meddling in their lives. Although his daughter hasn’t spoken since her mother died, Gabriel has learned to adapt to Grace’s needs and thinks that Miriam’s suggestions will be more harmful than helpful. But as Gabriel and Grace become more integrated into the Pebble Creek community and start to open up to their neighbours, he comes to appreciate Miriam’s help, especially when tragedy strikes during a snowstorm. Will their relationship become something more than one between a concerned teacher and loyal parent?
There have been times when I have a large stack of books waiting to be reviewed, all from the same genre, and I find myself wondering if I might end up getting bored or find it hard to review yet another Amish novel. I love Amish fiction, but reading one book after another about the same topic can make me feel a bit Amished-out. I really didn’t know what to expect from A Promise for Miriam. When I started this book, I needed to escape. I was buried in wedding stress and the audiobook I’d picked up from the library contained so many divorces and broken relationships that I was starting to feel a bit discouraged. Knowing that A Promise for Miriam was next on my list, I felt a bit happier, as I’ve rarely come across a depressing Amish novel. I figured that even if this book didn’t completely blow my mind, it would at least be a nice, easy read. Well, it was far more than that, and it did end up encouraging me, in more ways than one.
Firstly, the relationships between Gabriel and Grace, Miriam and her parents, Miriam and her fellow schoolteacher, not to mention Gabriel and Miriam, and those of the general community, were very heart-warming. In a world where everyone is out to help themselves, often at the expense of others, it really encouraged me to see how everyone in the community pitched in to help Gabriel and his daughter. I may have had a tear in my eye at a couple of points, but then again, I am overly emotional right now. But even if you don’t end up bawling your eyes out at this book, I’m sure you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty in the way that the Amish reach out to each other.
I was also incredibly encouraged to find that, even if there are probably around a hundred new Amish books coming on to the market this year, authors can still come up with new and original material. I did not feel Amished-out in the slightest while reading A Promise for Miriam and it was so refreshing to read about a new community and setting, as well as the fascinating topic of Grace’s loss of speech due to a traumatic event. Both the introduction of a new community and Grace’s problem were dealt with in a way that was touching and informative, without feeling overly sentimental or too much like reading a textbook.
While I loved the sweet, slowly-blossoming relationship between Gabriel and Miriam, I’d have to say that Grace was probably my favourite character in A Promise for Miriam. I’m a sucker for stories about widowers who have kids, but I’ve come across very few authors who can accurately write from a child’s perspective. Vannetta is one of the authors who manages this well, and I loved being able to see events from Grace’s point of view; it definitely brought something fresh to the story. The dynamics between Grace and her dad were brilliant as well, and it made a nice change to read about a caring, supportive Amish father for once. Even if Gabe cut himself off from the rest of the community to begin with, including Miriam, he never shut out his daughter.
As well as the insights into dealing with a child who has stopped talking, A Promise for Miriam was also educational in terms of the conflict with a businessman who wanted to start up an Amish tourist attraction in a nearby town. While I know that a lot of Amish fiction fans like to visit places like Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to see the sights and pick up some Amish-related trinkets, they might think twice about the Amish-inspired cafes and gift shops after reading A Promise for Miriam. While this sub-plot was wrapped up rather quickly, I still found it interesting to read about the dilemma over how the Amish should attempt to fight against the possibility of their community being turned into a stop on a tourist trip, as well as figuring out whether they could work with the English community to sell Amish-made goods and present an accurate depiction of their faith.
I genuinely thought that A Promise for Miriam was just going to another light read that would take my mind of the stress of planning a wedding, but I ended up falling completely in love with the characters and the community of Pebble Creek. I now recall why I thought so highly of Vannetta’s debut novel, A Simple Amish Christmas, and I’m glad that she hasn’t lost her touch. A Promise for Miriam brings something refreshing and original to Amish fiction and will hopefully remind many readers of why they fell in love this genre in the first place. I can’t wait for to read the sequel, A Home for Lydia, in February 2013.