THE CHRISTMAS SINGING: A ROMANCE FROM THE HEART OF AMISH COUNTRY: (ADA’S HOUSE SERIES.) By Cindy Woodsmall. WaterBrook Press, publisher (a division of Random House, Inc.) 2011. 208 pp. $14.99, in hardcover.
Grab a pillow and cozy quilt, get settled in a comfortable chair and prepare to read some very special holiday books.
There are quite a few, have you noticed? ‘Tis the season to warm your heart and soul by selecting novels, novellas and non-fiction titles that just might turn out to be your favorites.
I decided to not go the usual route this year and focus more on unfamiliar subjects, ‘distant’ characters, unique communities, religions and cultures.
I found all five (and then some)) in Cindy Woodsmall’s “The Christmas Singing: A Romance From the Heart of Amish Country: (Ada’s House Series.)”
To begin with, I did not know that much about Woodsmith. I had heard of her, as I have seen the names of other authors who share similar themes in their writings, including Karen Kingsbury, Charles Martin and Angela Hunt.
And when it concerned the Amish communitities, I knew practically zilch, I’m sorry to admit. But, there is always time to learn something new.
Actually, Woodsmall has written other works in a different series, “Sisters of the Quilt” (“When the Heart Cries,” “When the Morning Comes” and “When the Soul Mends.”).
One of these days, perhaps this Christmas season, I will read “Plain Wisdom,” a work of non-fiction shared by two women from very distinct worlds: Woodsmith, an Englischer, and good friend, Miriam Flaud, Old Order Amish.
Most of the reviews of “The Christmas Singing” that I have come across are congratulatory, sincere and educational, especially for those who know practically zilch about Amish laws, customs and/or rules.
A greatness of Woodsmith is how she does not make these “two worlds” overly confusing. If anybody hesitates to follow the author’s trail because they fear misunderstanding, haziness or misdirection, they need not worry.
At the very center of this quaint novella is 21-year-old Mattie Eash, a successful cake baker and decorator who owns her own bakery shop, which is open to both Englischer and Amish alike.
The novella goes back and forth to Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Mattie Cakes is located in Ohio where Eash moved to escape or try to cope with a broken heart after her once childhood friend and fiance, Gideon Beiler, abruptly broke off the engagement Christmas Eve three years ago.
Eash appears quite content with her bakery, and her customers are always thrilled with the beauty and deliciousness of her wedding and birthday cakes. At times, though, her mind strays and she’s back in her hometown in Pennsylvania, questioning to herself why Beiler suddenly and coldly ended their relationship.
She thinks Beiler had dumped her for another woman, an Englischer, and her suspicions lead her to the wrong conclusion, that Beiler set her free because of ‘the other woman’ and that he wants or allows her to date other men.
However, this is not the truth. Beiler has a painful secret and doesn’t want to burden her with it, so he lies to save both of them further agony and heartache….or so he thinks. Eash is forced to return to Pennsylvania temporarily and tries with all her might to boldly avoid her former fiance, which is never really possible. Both are stubborn, hurt and angry. (It’s later in the book when they learn what went wrong.) The lies grow bigger and bigger.
Everything is distorted. It looks as if there is no hope for these individuals to rekindle their relationship and become a couple again, or, at least, to part and still be friends.
Back in Ohio, Eash has met a good man, Sol Bender, usually quiet, calm and easy to get along with. He has his hunting and she, her cakes. (By the way, at the back of the book, there are fantastic recipes for the sweet Three-Layer Strawberries-And-Cream Cake and Orange Coconut Cake, great for holiday feasting or for any other occasion.)
These three characters in the novella must sort out their problems and decide what is best for themselves and everyone else.
Woodsmall constantly entertains, influences and questions her readers. From the beginning to the last page, “The Christmas Singing” has many lessons that need to be acknowledged: Is it better to tell the truth in all situations? Can people forgive others for their errors?
Is there any truth to having to be cruel to be kind? What could have been done to prevent the loss of faith and optimism? Is one selfish to think only of himself or herself and lie to either protect others or deceive themselves? This novella is full of richness, joy, love, forgiveness, sometimes disappointment and remarkable second chances.
What really helps is Woodsmall’s connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. At age 10, she had an early start in understanding the customs and ways of her best friend, Luann, a Plain Mennonite girl. She wore the traditional prayer Kapp and caped dresses.
Her parents did not allow television or radio and other modern technologies. Parents of both girls had to walk on jagged glass, careful so as to not disobey the rules. It could have been possible for the parents of both girls to end this close, endearing childhood relationship. But that never happened.
And today, even when Woodsmall and Flaud live miles apart from each other and ‘live’ in two unique worlds, they continue to remain good friends whom God has brought together to share laughter, sorrow, grace and a long-standing closeness.
Carol Wright is a freelance writer and resides in Winfield.