Reviewed by Cheryl Russell
When the Soul Mends by Cindy Woodsmall
"...tugs at emotions and pulls the reader into the world inhabited by Hannah, Sarah, Martin, Paul and the other well-crafted characters in this series."
Hannah Lapp is well-settled in her new life. She’s left the Plain ways to live as an Englisher, and has fallen in love with Martin Palmer. She’s found a purpose in training to be a nurse and in assisting Dr. Jeffrey Lehman in the local Amish birthing center. When not in school or working, she’s caring for Kevin and Lissa Palmer, Martin’s nephew and niece. Martin took them in when his sister, their mother, abandoned them.
But her well-settled world takes a turn when she receives a desperate phone call from her sister Sarah, back home in Owl’s Perch, Pennsylvania. After speaking with Sarah, Hannah learns her good friend Matthew Esh was hurt in a fire. Hannah promises to return home, a promise she now regrets. Going home means she must face her past. A powerful part of that past is Paul Waddell, her former fiancé. Hannah hasn’t seen him since he discovered her secret, leaving her to face her future alone. Hannah will, without a doubt, cross paths with the Old Order Amish, a community that ostracized her when she most needed them. She’ll also need to face her Daed. As head of the house, he rules his family with an iron fist, a method Hannah chafed under for years. But if she is to help her sister, there’s no avoiding the father that dominates their lives.
While Hannah dreads her return, Sarah is ecstatic her older sister is returning home. Mental issues that simmered under the surface for years engulfed the younger Amish woman when Hannah was forced to leave her childhood home. Sarah’s own gossip had much to with the Old Order community shunning her older sister and her guilt has fueled her downward spiral. Her parents have tried their best to keep their daughter safe, but as Hannah discovers when she arrives at home, Sarah needs far more help than the closed community can provide.
Hannah’s return to Owl’s Perch throws the lives of many into turmoil. A community must face their collective past and come to grips with the young woman back in their midst. A father, devoted to the Old Order ways, doesn’t approve of the prodigal daughter now returned. Will his heart soften towards his oldest daughter or will the rift within his family grow deeper? But most importantly, the return to her roots forces Hannah to make the most difficult decision of her life. Will she completely sever the ties with the faith and people of her childhood to embrace the life of an Englisher? Or will she find those ties too difficult to cut, putting her future life with Martin, Lissa and Kevin in jeopardy?
When The Soul Mends is the third and final book in Cindy Woodsmall’s Sisters of the Quilt Series. I’m not much for Amish fiction, since I’m familiar with their ways and they have no novelty for me. But Cindy has penned a storyline that doesn’t focus on the Amish/Mennonite aspect. She’s written novels with characters who happen to be Amish or Mennonite. Once past the horse-drawn buggies, kerosene lamps, and dark, plain clothing, they are characters struggling to grasp the world in which they live, one in which their faith doesn’t always make sense. When the Soul Mends, as well as the other two books in the series, tugs at emotions and pulls the reader into the world inhabited by Hannah, Sarah, Martin, Paul and the other well-crafted characters in this series.
Cheryl Russell lives in the Midwest with her husband and three children. Her short stories, as well as a few articles, have been published in print and online. She's loved to read for as long as she can remember and puts all that time to good use writing book reviews for Infuze, Novel Reviews, and Title Trakk. She's also a member of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, FIRST network, Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour and American Christian Fiction Writers. She's currently working on her first novel. If she could, she'd spend her time hanging out in the thermal areas of Yellowstone in general, Norris Geyser Basin in particular. Another favorite spot is Kennicott, an old copper mining town in Wrangel-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, which is at the end of a 60 mile dirt road, 8 hours west of Anchorage. She and her family are frequent hikers in the national parks, and have pounded the dirt trails in Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. You can visit her at her blog, Unseen Worlds or at her website.