The Bridesmaid by Beverly Lewis is the second in her Home to Hickory Hollow series, and some characters are in both books, but each can easily be understood alone.
Joanna Kurtz is close to suffering from the old cliche, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” She is 24, which by her community’s standard sets her in danger of being an old maid, and there are no prospects of a suitor in site. But an out-of-town trip for a relative’s funeral leads to a meeting with Eben Troyer, a young Amish man near her age.
The two hit it off immediately, but their relationship is beset my many problems. Besides living in different states and only communicating by letter and an every-other-week phone call, Eben is responsible for helping his father on the farm. The farm would go by rights to his younger brother, Leroy, but Leroy is off “in the world,” getting higher education and learning to fly planes, both taboo to the Amish. All of Eben’s hopes are tied up in Leroy’s coming “back to the fold,” which humanly speaking does not look likely.
Joanna has a semi-secret hobby: she loves to write stories. While not expressly forbidden, it is frowned upon. When news of it reaches the bishop’s ear, he pays a visit to warn her against it. Innocently she asks about the difference between writing stories and telling them, as there are famed Amish story-tellers, but she is threatened with shunning if her impertinence continues. If Joanna is in trouble with her bishop, that would not only affect her own life and her family, but it would likely prevent her from being able to move out of state as well.
Just as these problems and others for Joanna and Eben come to a head, another young man from Joanna’s community, who seemed undesirable before, begins to show her attention, and she wonders whether God might be leading her toward him.
A relative gives Joanna a quilt stitched by her namesake, and as Joanna learns the story behind the quilt, it inspires her to trust the Lord for her future.
I enjoyed this story and Joanna’s journey. I especially appreciated that in this series, each plot wraps up instead of being held over until the sequel. I always enjoy Beverly’s books. There is something cozy about them, and I admire the industriousness and gentleness of the Amish women. Beverly does not gloss over the problems the Amish face, though, especially the legalism that varies from church to church. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series in April.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)