Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Shining Light by Judith Miller

Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 9780764210020
About the book:  The kind people of Amana have been her guiding light, but her greatest trial is yet to come...   West Amana, Iowa, 1890

After Andrea Wilson receives the devastating news that her husband has been lost at sea, she returns home to Iowa with her young son, Lukas. But what she finds there causes more heartache: The family farm has burned and her father has died, leaving Andrea with nothing.

Andrea must rely on the kindness of the people from the nearby Amana village who invite her to stay with them for a time. She discovers much generosity and contentment among the Amanans--especially from the tinsmith, Dirk Knefler, who takes her son under his wing. But is the simple, cloistered life in Amana what Andrea wants for Lukas's future? Is she willing to give up the comforts and freedom of the outside world? And when yet another round of shocking news comes her way, will Andrea ever be able to find the serenity and hope that have eluded her for so long?

My thoughts: When presented with the opportunity to review A Shining Light I agreed to do so primarily because I have never read a historical novel based on the Amana Colony in the 1890s. Knowing that Judith Miller researches well when she writes, I looked forward to this romp in historical fiction amongst the Amana colonists. Since I knew virtually nothing about the Amana Colony, I did a bit of my own internet research prior to beginning my read. So as the story unfolded, it came to life for me.  (Overview on Wikipedia of Amana Colonies)

Our heroine and her son, Andrea and Lukas, have come upon really hard times after the death at sea of her rough, unloving husband. So she seeks out her father and his farm which just happens to be adjacent to the Amana holdings. Upon arrival she sees the homestead has burned down and learns that her father is dead. Prior to this unhappy occurrence, her father had sold the farm to the Amana Colony with right to dwell there until his death. So Andrea now has absolutely nothing.

Faced with untold sorrow and misfortune, Andrea and Lukas are taken in by the folks in the Colony until they can reach a decision about their direction in life. Andrea is not completely ignorant of the beliefs and customs of the Amana Colony, so she and Lukas seem to adjust and fit right into daily life.

I found that as the story proceeded the beliefs and customs of the Amana folks seem to be  a mixture between Amish and Quaker. While they have families that dwell together as the Amish do, they work in community kitchens and on community farms. The flour mill is owned by the Colony. It seems no one works for pay. They simply live, work, eat, and sleep there and all do their part to make the community work. One has to be voted in by the leadership group similar to becoming Amish. But there are differences.

The story's resolution surprised me but I was not disappointed. It is a sweet story of reliance on God to supply one’s needs and the support that a community of faith can give to a believer in sweet communion with the community.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of A Shining Light from Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review.

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