A Sister's Wish
A Sister’s Wish is the first Amish romance I have read, and I was captivated by it. Set in Charm, Ohio, it’s a small town story of family, tight-knit relationships, and a lot of heart.
Amelia is the youngest of four and is the lynchpin in the lives of her siblings. She does the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and takes care of the garden and animals. Despite being so busy all day long, she always has a smile and a kind word for everyone. Her brothers, Lukas and Levi, and even her sister, Rebecca, are all over-protective of her and she feels they treat her like she’s a kinner (child).
But Amelia is twenty-two, ready to lead her own life and to follow her own dreams. She feels that while her siblings have each done what they wished to do, she’s been the one holding down the fort. It’s her turn now. But how to make them understand that she’s ready?
Simon Hochstetler has been courting Amelia quietly. He stops by the farm to talk to her when he knows that her interfering siblings will be away. Ever since she was little, Amelia has had a huge crush on Simon, and time has only strengthened her regard. Now, it seems as though that regard is mutual.
One day when Simon stops by, he finds Amelia badly hurt out in the barn: Her pet goat kicked her and broke her leg and when she fell down a snake bit her palm. All in a panic, he calls the ambulance and has her taken to an Englisher (non-Amish American) hospital.
When Lukas returns home, he sees Simon’s note and rushes off to the hospital accompanied by his wife, Darla, and Rebecca. Once there, they are shocked to realize that Simon has been courting Amelia unbeknownst to them and that the pair have become close. Lukas and Rebecca disapprove of Simon as a suitor for Amelia’s hand because he of his checkered past.
Simon was abused as a child and ran away from home during his rumspringa (mid-adolescent) years. He fell in with bad company, started taking drugs, got caught in a car-jacking incident and landed in prison. There, he met with a priest who was his saving grace. The priest made Simon feel that he was worth something, that he could turn his life around, and that he could make something of himself. Simon returned to Charm and got baptized in the Amish church and started working in Lukas’s father’s lumber mill where he’s been an exemplary employee ever since.
At the hospital, away from Amelia’s room, Lukas confronts Simon about the latter’s past and makes him see that he would taint Amelia’s sweet innocence with his sins. Simon realizes that no matter what that priest said, he cannot escape his past and that it will keep him from what he wants most in the world – Amelia. This scene is beautifully done. Lukas’s righteous anger, Simon’s despair and heartbreak, their civil dialogue – it all reveals so much about each of their personalities and what’s important to them. Ultimately, the men decide that for Amelia’s sake, Simon will relinquish all claims to her.
When Simon officiously tells Amelia of his decision to break up with her, she’s rightly angered and also deeply sorrowful. Without discussing it with her, without giving her a chance to understand his past, he’s decided for them both that they do not suit. She decides that once she’s out of the hospital and her cast has come off, she’s going to start looking around for other suitors. She’s had it up to here with high-handedness from the men in her life.
Amelia does not have long to wait. She has hardly returned home when the first of her new potential suitors arrives hat in hand… and proceeds to tell her that he would love to raise goats with her since she loves her pet goat and he has a goat farm. As beguiling courtships go, this gambit leaves much to be desired, but Amelia is too good-natured to tell him so to his face.
So how will Simon get back into Amelia’s good graces? And does Amelia want him back? Can she trust him? That is at the heart of this book. Simon and Amelia tackle this under the direct, nosy, supervision of Amelia’s family.
However, while all of this is going on, we see a lot of Lukas and Darla’s story and Rebecca and Jacob’s story (both of whom were the central couples of the previous two books in the series). We get quite a few scenes from Lukas’s perspective, and others from the viewpoints of people who are working through problems that are irrelevant to Simon and Amelia’s relationship. A couple of people show up in scenes with no warning; they’d clearly been introduced in an earlier book, but as I haven’t read those, I felt somewhat adrift. A Sister’s Wish revolves around Amelia and Simon, but their story and the other side-stories are told in a series of vignettes, and this detracts from Simon and Amelia’s romance. They aren’t on the page very much even though they’re clearly meant to be the focus of the book. We’re told rather than shown a lot of things, because there isn’t enough space to do a lot of exploring of thoughts and feelings. The book has a lot going on, too much so.
My other quibble with the book is how cheerful and chummy everyone is all the time. Perhaps this is one of the implicit rules of the contemporary small-town Amish romance sub-genre. As an outsider, I had to wonder if Ms. Gray was employing sub-genre shorthands to connect with long-time readers.
I liked that this contemporary story doesn’t need the woman to be in a high-powered job earning mega-bucks, to be deemed successful and attractive as a mate. Amelia enjoys tending to the house and the farm and dreams of having her own house filled with her husband and children. She has quiet dreams, and there’s a man there for her who wants to fulfil her dreams. There are no I-Love-Yous or marriage vows at the end of A Sister’s Wish, but it’s clear that there is an understanding between Simon and Amelia and a quiet acknowledgement that they care deeply for each other. The book conveys the hopeful message that there really is the perfect mate for everyone, no matter who they are.