Author: Kelly Long, Amy Clipston and Beth Wiseman
Published by Thomas Nelson, 2012
Three novellas and many more Amish recipes than usual comprise this book. As for the recipes, I’m delighted to report that creamed celery is included, though I’ve not yet tried it. I believe every Amish-based novel that I’ve read has spoken much about creamed celery and what a favorite it is among the Amish. But this book is not about the recipes, which would have made it a cookbook, and I knew it was not that.
Each of the stories in An Amish Kitchen is set in the same community of Paradise, PA, with minor overlapping of a few characters. Kelly Long’s “A Taste of Faith” opens the volume with a letter requesting that Henry and Martha visit his father, who is very ill. This letter makes sense only as we get into the story, which begins with Fern Zook, 20, tending her plants along the windowsills and dreaming that “a tall, dark, handsome man . . . with a frame large enough to find her generous curves . . . interesting” might grow from the garden.
Enter Abram Fisher, the confirmed-bachelor neighbor who was left to care for his younger siblings in his parents’ absence. Fern and Abram have grown up together, but they don’t seem to like each other, much, in the beginning. As Fern is the community’s healer and Abram is caring for his siblings, and as the younger children keep getting hurt or sick, Fern and Abram are thrown together a great deal and begin to see each other differently. The romantic outcome is entirely predictable.
Amy Clipston serves up “A Spoonful of Love,” with Hannah King often wielding the spoon—or whatever implement is handy for the moment. Hannah runs a bed and breakfast owned by her parents, and has done so since her father’s first stroke. However, her very critical mother hasn’t learned to trust Hannah to manage well—with reference to either her personal life or the B&B--giving rise to classic mother/daughter conflicts.
The arrival of Stephen Esh, who left tragedy in his wake, has moved from Ohio to Paradise with no plans, no job, and no place to live. When he begins to board at the B&B, with young and single Hannah in charge, their immediate friendship only aggravates the conflicts. And, again, the romantic outcome is utterly predictable.
Beth Wiseman offers some relief with “A Recipe for Hope.” Eve Bender, her husband Benny, and their three boys—all of whom are in their “running-around” period, or rumschpringe—are having to leave their home, for a while. In a storm the day before, a tree had come down onto their two-story farmhouse, causing extensive damage. While Eve thanks God that no one was hurt, she does not look forward to their having to move in with her parents for the roughly two months the community will need to rebuild the farmhouse to at least a livable condition.
The conflicts she anticipates between herself and her mother do, indeed, arise, along with some problems with two of her sons—the twins, Elias and Amos. Eve’s father encourages her to “get to know” her mother, but won’t tell her what is going on. Of course, she thinks she knows her mother, but she does learn some things that help her understand her mom much better than ever before. And her mother finally admits her fears that have caused her to keep Hannah at a distance.
Of the three novellas in An Amish Kitchen, this one had more layers than either “A Spoonful of Love” or “A Taste of Faith”; while “complex” only by comparison with the others and less predictable, both storyline and character development left me feeling more satisfied, by the end.
Having read Clipston’s entire “Kaufmann Bakery Series” and the related Naomi’s Gift, and several other novels and novellas by both Long and Wiseman, I had approached this book eagerly. Understating the case, I was disappointed. Not only were the first two novellas too predictable to be of interest, neither story offered enough complexity to hold my interest. I read because I had made the commitment to do so. All three authors have done so much better. I give An Amish Kitchen ***, only because Wiseman’s portion improved the total.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.