Gathering the Threads (2017) by Cindy Woodsmall is the final novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is 352 pages in length. With a full-time job and a five-year old at home, this novel took me three days to read. I received a copy of the novel from WaterBrook Press; all opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this novel 5 STARS. This novel is a Contemporary Amish novel.
Here is the Goodreads blurb:
After three months ofdraus in da Welt, Ariana has returned to Summer Grove, the Old Order Amish community where she was raised for twenty years, and life with her Brenneman family. Skylar Nash, the Englisch-raised young woman is working in Ariana’s cafe while getting to know her birth family and their Plain way of life. Skylar’s time in Summer Grove has changed her outlook, just as Ariana has grown to see her personal faith in God in a different light than the manner she was taught while growing up. Both women will have to make decisions about their paths and Ariana must decide what role her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, will play in her life.
What a fantastic way to end a series! As with book 2, the action in this story is fast-paced; I had a rather difficult time putting this book down! In fact, I’m not sure if my family ate dinner last night or not. Oops! This story allowed me to engage with it in a highly emotional manner. A couple of times I cried, and a few times I wanted to throw the book across the room to get away from the religious legalism and the small-mindedness of certain men and women that is illustrated in the book. Woodsmall is an excellent writer, not just because her characters and plots are so well written, but because she gets the reader to wrestle with real life issues. I love a book that makes you question your beliefs, ethics, relationship with God and with other people. I love when a book holds up a mirror and makes you realize things about yourself you thought were hidden or not there at all. This novel really did this for me in spades!
I struggled with the Amish theology A LOT throughout the reading of these three books, and found myself very frustrated by the Amish men and women who blindly followed what the bishop said to follow. I don’t know a lot about the Amish culture other than what I’ve learned through main-stream media, Wikipedia, an episode of X-Files (LOL!), and some basic teaching by the nuns at my very Catholic elementary school when I was a little girl, but I do know that submission is a big deal. Even as a little kid, I have always balked at the notion of submission as it is presented by worldly standards. There’s a good kind of submission, and then there is a bad kind of submission. Ariana has just received permission to come back to the home she knows, and she is doing it 9 months earlier than expected. At first, this feels like a big win to Ariana, but almost within minutes of returning home her Amish father, Isaac, starts in on her. His goal is to break her new will (which, by the way, is just her questioning things) and get her back to that rigid, submissive dogmatist she was before she met her biological mother and father. Oh my goodness, there were moments I disliked Isaac intensely. And the bishop was just straight up mean! Godly submission does NOT mean someone blindly following some man’s dictates because the community thinks God put him in charge. If God wanted that, He wouldn’t have given us brains that could think, and He wouldn’t have told us, “Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). But, God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us all brains so we all can read our Bibles and test His words and choose for ourselves. Then we know how to fully submit to God with a loving heart. The Bible is not a weapon. Having certain Bible verses bashed over our heads in an attempt to gain worldly submission, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is actually evil. Ok, I will step off my soap box now! Hehehe!
Ariana does realize that her community, especially the women in her community, have been subjugated by the current bishop. Ariana learns that at all times, even if it goes against her Amish parents, her Englisch parents, her church community, and her boyfriend, she has to follow God’s path for her. And, Ariana fights from page 1 till the end to do just that. I found Ariana to be an amazingly genuine and brave character. Ariana evolves from a rigid girl in book 1 into the type of God-fearing woman we all should strive to be. And, it was a joy to watch her grow in her walk with Christ. She is such a beautifully written character!
This book does tie everything together nicely. And, justice is served by the end of the novel. Skylar does grow up, overcome her real problems with the help of her new community, and becomes a really amazing adult. Abram and Cilla have a happy ending, but even they realize that for them to be the couple God wants them to be, they will have to do things a little differently than the Amish church typically allows. In the end, no matter who you are, following God’s plans will lead to the happily ever after He wants for you.
I love this book and highly recommend it. Be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster ride! If you are interested in this book, and would like the opportunity to read it for free, click here!