AN AMISH GIFT Cynthia Keller
Ballantine Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-3455-3813-0
November 2012
Inspirational Fiction

Lancaster, Pennsylvania Present Day

Shep and Jennie Davis have been down on their luck for quite a few years.  Shep has never been a great salesman, which has led the family further down the path of no return.  Now, having lost his most recent job, they've exhausted all avenues of support and all of their resources and are nearly bankrupt when a miracle occurs.  An old friend of Shep's aunt has left Shep all of his property, which includes a home in the country and a bicycle shop in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  And while their new silver lining doesn't shine with riches, at least they will have a roof over their heads and a place to raise their two children, Willa and Tim.  Amish country is definitely a change for Shep and Jennie, and to their dismay, the house is in sad disrepair and the bicycle shop is old and dusty with a meager clientele base.  Still, it's a new start!

Ten-year-old Willa and thirteen-year-old Tim are not at all happy with the move away from the city into the country.  Nor is life any easier for Jennie and Shep.  They inherited property only and are still without money as Shep begins working to get the bicycle business started again.  First, he has to learn about bikes and then find a way to increase sales.  And even down to their last dollar, he still refuses to allow Jennie to get a job and help out.  Under the stress of the children's rebellion and Shep's gloomy moods, Jennie takes to walking the family dog down the country roads where she meets her Amish neighbor, Mattie Fischer.  Mattie's simple life intrigues Jennie as the two women become friends.  Raising several children without electricity and only basic conveniences seems a very hard life to lead, at least to Jennie.  But as the days pass, even Shep, Tim, and Willa get to know the Fischers as they learn about Amish values.

When an emergency takes the last spare dollar they have, Jennie knows she must find a job.  So, without Shep's knowledge, she begins to teach herself how to make candy, and is soon selling it to Mattie, who in turn sells it in town at her market stall. Jennie is determined to earn enough money to pay their debts and maintain the household while Shep is doing who-knows-what inside a bicycle shop that isn't bringing in one spare dime.

AN AMISH GIFT is given without expectation by the Fischer's as Jennie and Shep learn about their plain life.  The Fischers' simple and basic lifestyle is intriguing to the Davises.  There is heartache and loss for both families, but through it all Jennie and Shep keep their marriage together and begin to see a way to change their lives for the better.

The characters sparkle and move the story along, when they are allowed to speak.  Too much narrative leads and bores the reader, making the novel drag. However, the story really picks up near the end when Jennie is frantically trying to make a success of her business, and there is more action to move the pages along.  Even so, AN AMISH GIFT is a compelling novel and is sure to be a huge hit with fans.

Diana Risso