*This review originally appeared in The Budget’s March 28, 2018, Local Edition.
By Pat Edgar
Best-selling writer of Amish fiction Kathleen Fuller has just released the third book in her “Amish Letters” series. “Words from the Heart” (Thomas Nelson, 2018) follows “Written in Love” and “The Promise of a Letter.” With well-developed characters and a hint of mystery, “Words from the Heart” is certain to keep the reader’s interest.
Appropriate to the title, the novel begins with a letter written to main character Ivy Yoder from a man named John. Ivy is returning to Birch Creek, Ohio, from Michigan, where she spent several months helping a cousin during a difficult pregnancy. Fast forward one year and Ivy is considering that letter, the only one she has received from John King. When she was in Michi- gan, they had courted, and Ivy hoped they might have a future together. Now that he seems to have forgotten her, she’s glad she hasn’t told her family about the relationship.
It is Ivy’s last day working for David and Magdalena Miller, who are closing their bookbinding business and moving to Holmes County, Ohio, to be closer to family. Although Ivy loves the Millers and has enjoyed working for them, she is looking forward to finding a job that will allow her to be around more people. At 4 feet, 11 inches tall, Ivy is the shortest, but oldest, among her siblings. She lives at home with her parents and three younger brothers— Ira, Seth and Judah. A sister, Karen, is married and lives nearby with her husband, Adam.
After work and a good dinner at home, Ivy leaves for the home of Phoebe Chupp to make Christmas cards with friends. Also joining them will be Ivy’s best friend, Leanna Raber, and Ivy’s sister Karen. All three of her friends are married, and Phoebe has two children. Ivy and Leanna make quite a pair with Ivy’s small frame and Leanna’s six-foot stature. Leanna is the only female Amish mechanic in the area (or perhaps anywhere). When Ivy returned from Michigan, she learned that her best friend and Roman Raber were courting. Now married and expecting her first child, Leanna remains as confident and quirky as she has always been.
Ivy tries not to worry about her unmarried state. She is thankful for her family and friends and trusts in God to take care of her future. Clearly, though, her mother is worried and questions her daughter frequently about her plans. Her father, the bishop, is more relaxed about the situation as he is with enforcing the Ordnung. He makes sure that the main rules are followed but is not as strict as the previous bishop whose authority and misdeeds nearly destroyed the community.
When Ivy returns home from the card-making party, she sees the unmistakable buggy of Cevilla Schlabach sporting as much reflective tape as is allowed by the church district. Cevilla is an elderly, single woman of the community whom Ivy knows well. Their age difference has prevented them from becoming close friends, but Ivy sees much of herself in Cevilla since neither has ever been married. In spite of her singleness, Cevilla has led a full life. She is content and independent and never afraid of voicing her opinions.
When Ivy enters the house, she sees that Cevilla is not alone. With her is her great-nephew Noah Schlabach from Arbor Grove, Iowa. Ivy last saw him at a wedding about a year ago and, before that, had traveled with Cevilla to Homes County where he was conducting an auction. That was about 10 years ago, and Ivy had the impression that Cevilla had been trying to stir interest in each one for the other.
Now 32 and still a bachelor, Noah is visiting his great-aunt to honor his promise to empty the boxes in her attic and determine the worth of their contents. The boxes had been sent to Cevilla after the death of her English stepmother, Glenda. Noah loves his great-aunt and is happy to help but doesn’t understand why she wants to involve Ivy in the project. Could she still be playing matchmaker? If so, Noah knows she will be unsuccessful. Even though he sometimes wonders what it would be like to have a wife and children, he doesn’t feel he has the time to devote to family with his schedule of traveling as an auctioneer. Cevilla arranges for Noah and Ivy to start the attic project early the next morning.
That night when he goes to bed thinking about the work ahead, Noah experiences some strange symptoms for the third time. The first time, he was overcome with ringing in his ears, dizziness and a rapid heartbeat was almost a year ago. He had nearly forgotten about the episode when just two weeks ago he felt the same disturbing sensations including a churning stomach. The ringing in his ears is especially troubling because of what it could mean to his profession. If his hearing is affected, how can he continue to work as an auctioneer?
Readers will enjoy the interaction between Noah and Ivy as they examine the boxes, one of which seems older and weather-beaten. Cevilla’s maneuverings will both delight and puzzle the reader.
In “Words from the Heart,” Kathleen Fuller offers another well written and emotionally satisfying book. For those readers who would like to meet Fuller, she will be part of Girlfriend Getaway 2018, scheduled for June 15 – 17 in Sugarcreek, Ohio. For more information, call 1-800-965-9324 or visit amyclipston.com/girlfriend.