Abby Finds Her Calling
Initially borrowing a plot idea from Shelley Shepard Gray’s The Survivor, King’s first novel quickly becomes a confusing mishmash of platitudes and good people dealing with a bad situation on a surface level. Readers should know from the beginning that the Abby of the title is only a peripheral part of the central love story, if it can be called that.
In the Amish community of Cedar Creek, Abby has been in love with wheelwright James her whole life. James, however, is enamored with Abby’s little sister Susanna, who has taken the worldly nickname of Zanna, and has asked to marry her. Zanna agrees.
On the day of their wedding, however, Zanna is nowhere to be found. James soon learns that Zanna had sex with Jonny, the black sheep of his family who refused to join the church after his rumspringa. Instead he bought a limo and started his own taxi service in the area.
Although the order’s rules say that an unmarried mother is to be sent away to have her child and the child put up for adoption afterward, Zanna will have none of that. She announces she will gladly put up with six weeks of shunning and will confess her sins to the congregation, but she’s keeping the child and will be living in the community.
As in the Gray book, Zanna at first says the father of the child is James. When he refuses to accept culpability, but tells her he will marry her anyway and raise her child as his, she refuses and names Jonny as the father, and adds that she and Jonny had sex while she was engaged to James.
After their elder brother tosses Zanna from the family home, to her rescue comes her older sister Abby, the peacemaker. Abby has already formally declared herself to be a spinster and has her own house and sewing business. So Zanna comes to live with her and takes up rug making.
The book follows the last six months of Zanna’s pregnancy in a desultory, sweet way that will irritate readers who want romance in their romance novels. Instead, the story revolves around Zanna’s transformation from spoiled, willful teen to an appropriately Amish mother. Zanna’s, James’, and Jonny’s families are torn by Zanna’s pregnancy, and more than a love affair, the plot centers on how these families find healing in the Amish way and God’s word.
Zanna, for her part, is the most unbelievable of the characters, quickly going from a petted Amish princess to adherent. She professes love for Jonny, but her touted love and trust aren’t seen but heard. What she sees in Jonny other than a fun-loving rebel isn’t apparent.
Wishy-washy James is even harder to fathom. He seems initially upset by Zanna’s pregnancy and absence on his wedding day, but again why he thinks he loves the much younger girl isn’t fathomable. He says she will bring sunshine and brightness to his dull life, but she seems to bring nothing but turmoil to it.
Jonny, the other part of the triangle, is a cypher. Readers don’t get to see much of him, but hear a lot about him. That he’s been able to set up his own business since leaving the order isn’t seen as commendable, but just another part of his independent streak. His initial denial of his part in the pregnancy made this reader leery of his later embracing Zanna and his life with her.
Finally, the Abby of the title, finds her calling as the bringer of peace and tranquility to the people. I’m not spoiling the plot here because that is her role from the beginning of the book when she’s still pining over James. Frankly, if James ever mans up, Abby will eventually be disappointed because I don’t think he has the gumption to ever love anyone.
The King’s Home at Cedar Creek series starts off with a whimper, not a bang. So those who want to read a surface look at an Amish community during a bump in the road in their history are the only ones who will be rewarded.