Author: Beverly Lewis
Genre: Amish Romance
Release Date: September 12, 2023
Publisher: Bethany House
This heartwarming prequel to The Shunning is a tender story of love, belonging, and the courage to move forward.
After her widowed father remarries, nineteen-year-old Clara Bender is no longer needed to help run his household. Marriage seems like her best hope of moving out, but there are few young men in her tiny Indiana Amish community. When she comes across letters from her mother's aunt Ella Mae Zook, she sets off to visit Lancaster County's Hickory Hollow to decide where her future lies.
Ella Mae is not quite ready to move from the farmhouse where she and her recently deceased husband spent over fifty happy years, but her children are eager to resettle her, making Clara's visit seem like an answer to prayer. The two women form a warm bond while restoring an heirloom wedding quilt and sharing their lives, with Ella Mae confiding about a tragedy from her courting years. Eventually, Ella Mae suggests Clara stay for the summer, allowing Ella Mae more time with her and giving Clara an opportunity to meet the area's eligible young men. But when the unexpected happens, will Clara find where her heart truly belongs?
Reviewer: Connie Porter Saunders
In 1997, I read a new book by Beverly Lewis, and I was instantly captivated by a new-to-me genre! The Shunning introduced me to Amish fiction, and I couldn't wait to read more about the people who resided in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Now, twenty-six years later, in a prequel to The Shunning, Lewis offers readers a chance to learn more about Ella Mae Zook, one of the characters from Hickory Hollow. The Heirloom has a sweet romance between Clara Bender and a young man that she met while visiting her great-aunt Ella Mae, but the highlight for me was the love and trust that grew between Clara and Ella Mae. I loved watching their special bond deepen as they both grappled with struggles and changes.
Would Clara's respect and devotion for her father prevent her from remaining in a community where the church rules were so different? Would Ella Mae have to give up the home that she shared with her late husband for over fifty years?
Lewis is one of the leading writers of Amish fiction, and she's also a powerful voice in Christian fiction. This book is another example of her ability to seamlessly weave her own beliefs into the stories that she's telling. I truly enjoyed The Heirloom, and I now feel an urge to re-read The Heritage of Lancaster County series!
I received a review copy courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Deanne Patterson
I have read this author's books since she started writing them. She is the one who started me reading Amish fiction. What I like about her books is how realistic they are. I love her writing style. The situations portrayed are realistic and believable. And I can always learn something about the Amish culture from her books. They are always very well researched.
Having read her book The Shunning and the rest of that series when it was first published many years ago, I was thrilled to see a prequel to this series in The Heirloom.
Clara Bender lives in Hickory Hollow, Indiana, and her widowed father is newly remarried. I didn't like her new stepmother when we first met in the book. Her character is portrayed as unlikeable, as many stepmothers are portrayed. She doesn't make much of an effort to get along with Clara or empathize with her.
Missing her mother, Clara reads some letters that were bundled away and sent from her aunt to her mother over the years. The two had a close and loving relationship. Clara contacts her aunt about a visit, as she wants to get to know her and hear more about her mother in her younger years.
I loved it when letter writing was popular and used to write and receive letters from my grandmother. The pretty stationery was always a treat to see. Clara's father isn't crazy about her going to visit her aunt because it's a different church district and the rules are different in that district. He relents when she makes plans to stay for a short amount of time.
Once arriving, I enjoyed getting to know the aunt, and we see a bit of a timeslip as we are taken back in time to her aunt's youth and get to meet some of the youngsters her aunt knew. Just like with today's youth, there were the reliable and steadfast youth and the braggarts and show-offs. We see from this why the bishop back then made the rules so strict after some mishaps, and this explains why Clara's aunt is the way she is and also why she doesn't speak of this time period with anyone.
I enjoyed reading about fixing the heirloom quilt and its repair process.
After acclimating herself to her new homestead in the Lancaster area, she and her aunt would like her to stay longer. Also, the new beau she has wants to grow closer to her. He is a strong man of faith. I enjoyed seeing how Clara and her aunt drew closer in their relationship with each other and with God. Clara goes through some uncertainty when she decides she wants to make this her permanent home, and her father can't agree to her staying in Lancaster for many reasons. Because of her upbringing, she will not disobey her father. But God always has our best interests and will bring us through our trials and tribulations.
This is an excellent book. This author, with her steadfast faith, never fails to write an inspirational book.
I was given a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Linda Klager
Clara Bender is saddened after her mother's death. After a short time, Clara's father remarried. Clara does not feel wanted in the home anymore. Her new stepmother is very distant when dealing with her. Clara remembers her mother mentioning the close relationship that she had with Clara's great-aunt. She longs to be loved again. Clara decides to write to her aunt, Ella Mae Zook.
To her amazement, Ella Mae writes back and invites her to her home for a visit. Ella Mae has been very disturbed by her son and his wife. They want Ella Mae to move out of this house. Ella Mae has so many memories that she shared with her departed husband. Ella cannot let these memories go.
Being a very respectful girl, Clara asks her father if she could go and visit Ella Mae. Her father has difficulty letting Clara go, but eventually gives his permission. Oh, the warm welcome Clara received! Clara feels the closeness that her mother shared with Ella Mae. They develop a very close bond.
Clara acclimates to her new surroundings and meets a handsome Amish boy. He asks to take her home. On the way home, this young man shows Clara how fast he can drive his buggy. Clara does not like to go this fast. He wants to see her again, but Clara tells him she does not want to be in a racing buggy. A dear friend is hurt, and Clara's relationship with this young man falls apart.
Time goes by very quickly. Clara fell in love with her new surroundings and with Ella Mae. She wrote to her father that she wanted to extend her time with her great-aunt. Her father hears bad news in Clara's new area and wants her back home. The father is also concerned about Clara's new church. Their rules are very different from what she grew up hearing.
I love Beverly Lewis' books. She writes such good literature. She understands the hearts of the Amish people very well. She also brings out the Gospel message very clearly in her books. I highly recommend this book.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Nancy Brown
Clara Bender, a young, devout Amish woman, feels unsettled and is still grieving the loss of her mother when her Dat remarries. Clara tries to get close to Eva, her stepmother, but the woman keeps her distance, which makes Clara miss her mother even more.
After reading through several old letters written by her mother to her aunt Ella Mae Zook, she decides to go visit her. The visit turns into a long stay because of the emotional bond that grew between Clara and Aendi Ella Mae.
What ensues is Clara looking to fit into the more strict Amish community and learning more about dedication in personal relationships, compassion, and faithfulness to Jesus Christ and His teachings. There is a strong faith and trust message in The Heirloom, which I fully appreciated. Beverly Lewis has a milder approach to introducing readers who may be lost and searching for Jesus than other Christian authors I've read, and I hope maybe some of her other books have a more direct, clear message about salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ.
The plot was well-developed and almost delicately constructed, but I did like the story and liked the building of trusting and loving relationships.
The love relationship between Clara and her beau was very clean, with no worries about any unsuitable content. That's the way Christian fiction should be.
I do recommend the book, which is suitable for ages 14 and up.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion. I was not obligated to write a positive review.
Reviewer: Katie Slocum
There’s Amish fiction, and then there’s Beverly Lewis. In The Heirloom, Lewis again proves that she sets the standard high in this genre as she brilliantly combines young and old, past and present, into one unforgettable story.
After more than 20 years, Lewis has given her devoted followers the book we’ve been waiting for. We have come to know Ella Mae Zook through many of the Hickory Hollow novels, but now we finally know the secret happenings of the past that put her on the journey to becoming the "Wise Woman," as well as the events that led up to Katie Lapp’s severe punishment in "The Shunning."
The gorgeous cover is only a hint of what’s inside, as two main characters and two different time frames are blended seamlessly into a story I have been long waiting to read yet never saw coming. I love Lewis’ vivid imagery of people and places that draws the reader in and makes you feel as if you are there. The heirloom quilt is like a character on its own, bringing Clara and Ella Mae closer to each other and bonding them as friends as they share their lives with each other during the many hours of repairing the old quilt. I found young Clara quite fascinating as she deals with honoring her faith and family, remaining committed to God, and finding love again. Although Katie Lapp is a very minor character in "The Heirloom," I enjoyed catching the foreshadowing of what is next for her in The Heritage of Lancaster County series.
Well thought out, well written, and oh so satisfying, The Heirloom weaves characters and places together as only Lewis does, at a perfect pace that is unrushed and still highly engaging. If you are not familiar with her books, this is a perfect place to start. If you are already a fan, this book will feel like coming home again.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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