I don’t usually do two reviews in one post, but since these two titles are the second and third books in this trilogy, I’ll go ahead and rebel against my rules. This are the second and third books in the Sisters of the Quilt trilogy. (Read my review of the first book, When the Heart Cries.). While I got the first book for free in exchange for a review, these two I didn’t get for free. I actually got the three-book set from a local Borders when it was having a 60% off sale. That means I got to give away my original copy of the first book to a friend.
When the Morning Comes
Anyhow, I digress. Morning picks up where Heart left off. Hannah has left her Old Order Amish community after being raped, getting pregnant, and delivering her baby pre-term, resulting in the baby’s death. (Wow. Apparently I am reading a Christian, Amish soap opera. Who knew?!) Anyhow, Hannah escapes to the city to find her aunt, and what she finds is an Amish birthing center, which is useful because apparently those stomach pains she’s been having? Yeah, she’s been hemorrhaging and faints because hello, she’s lost a ton of blood. She happens to pass out in front of a doctor who calls an ambulance and saves her life. What ensues is her connection with her aunt, her aunt’s surrogate family, and her journey back to her Old Amish community after many years away. (Yeah. Totally a soap opera.)
Okay, so I think it’s clear that this book is so much more dramatic than the first book. There is death (more than one!), a crazy sister who basically hears voices and is convinced her sister’s dead baby is actually not dead and hidden with Hannah (Sarah, Hannah’s younger sister). There is unrequited love (Hannah and Paul), new love (Hannah and Martin), parents who don’t love their kids, kids who are needy and sad, and so on. The story also alternates between what’s going on in Hannah’s new world and back at the ranch in Owl’s Perch, Hannah’s former life.
I have enjoyed this series so far, but I did like the first book better. Not much better, I will say. Why? Well, mostly because I wasn’t a fan of going back and forth between Hannah’s life and the Old Amish life. From a storytelling point, this transition back and forth made a lot of sense because how would we find out about all of the stuff that happens back “down home” without being there with them? I just found it jarring, though.
The other thing that made me not enjoy this book as much is because Woodsmall, while a good storyteller, has a few awkward ways of passing large amounts of time (several months, for instance) or delivering information important to the plot. The first book spans just under seven and a half or eight months, and this one, at about exactly the same length, spans two years (maybe slightly more).
Those things aside, I thought this was good, and I still enjoyed the people in this book. What is interesting is that the end of it, I am torn because I want Hannah to be with Paul AND with Martin (except, ewww, not at the same time — I just mean I don’t have one I’m rooting for more than the other). (To be fair, I accidentally-on-purpose looked at the epilogue of the third book, so I know who she ends up with, but silly me — I’m not going to tell you who it is!) Even crazy Sarah, Hannah’s teenage sister — I just want to hug her and tell her it’s going to be okay. So if you read the first book, or you’re looking for another Amish series to get into, grab a copy of this one. (Just buy the three-book set online — it’s cheaper than buying them all separate!)
Overall rating: 8/10
When the Soul Mends
I’m warning you ahead of time — the review for the last book has some spoilers, but I won’t reveal who Hannah ended up married to.
Soul was a disappointing conclusion to this trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I was anxious to read it, but it just seemed so rushed because Hannah had to hurry up and pick who she was going to marry, Paul (her former Plain Mennonite fiance) or Martin (her current Englichser boyfriend). Okay, okay, like I said above, I maybe decided to “check how many pages” this book had and happened to glance at the epilogue and found out who she was married to.
While Soul was still primarily driven by the characters’ relationships with one another, and touched heavily on themes of forgiveness, communication, and love, I felt like the author just needed to hurry up and end it. The thing that upset me the most about this book was how everyone reacted to Sarah, Hannah’s sister, who is out of her flipping mind. I mean, seriously, she think she’s setting these fires with her tongue and she is hearing voices and just acting crazy. Where I’m from, that’s called schizophrenia. I know that the Old Amish treat things like that differently, and they view medical intervention in a different light, but it just irritated me that no one took Sarah’s illness more seriously and she seemed more or less normal and okay at the end of the book (which spans just a few months, and the epilogue takes place several years later).
I could go on and on, except I could just sum up my thoughts about Soul pretty simply: everything ties up too neatly. Hannah’s entrance back into her family’s life. The person she marries, even though her family ends up disappointed with her choice (although let’s be real, either way they’d be disappointed, since neither Paul nor Martin is a member of the Old Amish faith). Sarah’s illness. The relationship that begins for the person Hannah doesn’t marry. Mary’s pregnancy. Matthew’s relationship. But the thing is, I guess I can’t complain too much. Amish literature is for Christian publishers what $4.99 mass market romance novels are for Harlequin — escapist literature. And for me, these books were (especially the last one!) very quick reads that didn’t require much thought or work, so ultimately I’d say it (and all three of them) served their purpose.