*This review originally appeared in The Budget’s March 8, 2017 Local Edition.
By Pat Edgar
Following the success of her Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club series, author Wanda E. Brunstetter just launched the Amish Cooking Class book series. The first installment is The Seekers (Shiloh Run Press, 2017). Two additional books will complete the series.
Still childless after eight years, Heidi Troyer decides to offer cooking classes in her Amish home. With the approval of her husband Lyle, Heidi patterns her project after her Aunt Emma’s popular quilting classes. An advertisement in The Budget newspaper brings together a diverse group of cooking students. Heidi had expected that her class would consist of English women who want to learn more about Amish home-style cooking. What she gets, though, is three women and two men who sign up for vastly different reasons.
The youngest student is Kendra Perkins, a single woman who was ordered to leave her home when her parents discovered she was pregnant. Without their support, Kendra is forced to leave her nurses training program and move in with a friend in Mt. Hope. Not only does she miss her home, but she is also forbidden by her father to have any contact with her two younger sisters. Kendra receives the cooking class registration fee from her friend who hopes to raise her spirits and help get her mind off of her uncertain future.
Another woman who joins the class is Loretta Donnelly, a young widow with two children, Abby aged five and Connor, three. Loretta’s husband died a year earlier when he fell asleep at the wheel while returning from a business trip. Her parents, who were once Amish, live near Pittsburgh and are too far to help on a daily basis. She feels somewhat alone in Sugarcreek but doesn’t want to uproot her children from the only home they’ve known. Loretta decides to attend the cooking classes to learn some new Amish recipes and meet some people in the area.
Eli Miller, neighbor to Heidi and Lyle Troyer, has also recently lost his spouse. Her death came as a result of a bicycle accident involving a driver that immediately left the scene. Eli knows that his wife would not want him living on cold sandwiches and hard boiled eggs so he joins the group to learn to cook the basics.
Coming from Dover, Ohio is Charlene Harris, a kindergarten teacher who is soon to be married. She is happily in love with her fiancé Len but has a much bumpier relationship with her future mother-in-law Annette, who criticizes Charlene’s kitchen skills at every opportunity.
While Charlene is having lunch with her friend Kathy Newman at Sammy Sue’s Barbeque in Dover, Kathy suggests that she take Heidi’s cooking classes. That way she can surprise both Len and Annette with a home cooked meal at her place.
Completing the class is Ron Hensley, a retired Vietnam veteran who is traveling from state to state with the announced intention of seeing the world. He stops in Walnut Creek because his funds are low and his next Social Security Check is weeks away. Ron asks Heidi and Lyle if he can park on their property, using the excuse that his trailer needs repairs. What he is actually planning is to rob the Troyers of some of their antiques which he can sell at his next stop. He has done this before in other communities and makes a good income from doing so.
Ron’s motives for joining the class are two-fold: He wants to check out the valuables in the Troyer home as well as get at least one good meal a week. Part of Heidi’s class will consist of sampling their finished products and taking home a portion for later.
Although Heidi is surprised by her class make-up, she listens to her aunt’s advice that God will send her the people who need her teaching.
She decides to print a Bible verse on the back of each recipe card that she hands out and listens carefully to the needs of each student. The book is well written and easy to read. And as a bonus for readers, the author includes the recipes and Bible verses that Heidi hands out in each class. I would certainly recommend it to others who enjoy Amish fiction or warm and cozy stories. And for those of us who live in the Sugarcreek area, we are treated once again to a setting we know well.
New York Times award-winning author Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She spends a good deal of time speaking to her readers and has done so in this area several times. She is open to her readers both in person and through her email address.
Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs. When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties.
Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A prolific writer, Wanda is currently working on several books that will be released this year.