Monday, September 29, 2014

Amish Legacy

THE FORGIVEN, Book One of the Keepers of the Promise series, will be available online and in stores on October 3rd, and I'm so excited to see the start of this new series. The idea for the Keepers of the Promise series comes from my fascination with the history of the Amish in America. Since I write contemporary stories, I didn't want to do a straight historical, but my agent and I came up with the idea of doing a contemporary story which would also contain a love story from the past.

Keepers of the Promise revolves around three Amish women, cousins who are the only females in their generation of the family. Their grandmother, Elizabeth Lapp, has long been the family's story-keeper, telling the stories of their Amish family to the younger generation. As Elizabeth gives up her independence to move into the grossdaadi house, she longs to encourage her granddaughters to take on the responsibility for their family stories. She gives each of the three an object from their family to cherish, and in doing so, she opens them to a family story which affects their lives today.

In THE FORGIVEN, young widow Rebecca Fisher is struggling to raise her two children alone and keep her home. Renting her stable to furniture-maker Matthew Byler offers a possible solution, but Matt has only recently returned to the Amish after several years spent in the English world. As Matt struggles to prove to himself and others that he can reject violence and live Amish, Rebecca realizes she, too, needs the courage to grow and change. Her answers come from an unexpected source when her grandmother gives her a small dower chest that had belonged to one of her ancestors.

The dower chest is a tradition in many cultures as a place for a young woman to collect the bedding and quilts she'll need when she marries. Fathers sometimes make small replicas of dower chests as gifts for little girls, and these small boxes become the place to keep their treasures. Original painted wooden Pennsylvania dower chests are highly prized by collectors today, especially those with the traditional folk art designs of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Civilian Public Service camp
Lancaster County, 1941. As war threatens, Anna Esch pours her experiences into the diary she keeps in her small dower chest. Her world seems to crumble as neighbors turn against the Amish and her love, Jacob, is sent far away to a Civilian Service camp for obeying his religious convictions and refusing to fight. She can't know, as she grows from a girl into a woman during a time of trouble and grief, that one day another Amish woman will gain strength and courage from the words she writes.

THE FORGIVEN reflects on some difficult questions that are part of being Amish in the world. How does one remain faithful to the belief in non-violence in a world at war? Is it possible to be a good citizen and refuse to fight? I can't offer any answers, but I pray I've reflected faithfully the views of the Amish, whose commitment to turn the other cheek has brought them through times of persecution and still sustains them today.

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