With over 100 ratings on Goodreads, this one is coming in with 4 1/2 stars! Looks like everyone is loving this heartwarming story, which looks at both good and bad in this little Amish community.
The Charmed Amish Life #1
by Shelley Shepard Gray
Releasing January 26, 2016
Shelley Shepard Gray’s first book in her Charmed Amish Life series is set in the quaint Amish village of Charm, Ohio, and tells the stories of the Kinsinger siblings who are each struggling to find both forgiveness and love in the face of tragedy.
Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family. Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close friendship.
Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.
Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find the time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.
As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?
It was another picture-perfect day in Charm.
The sky was pale blue, quietly complementing the acres of vibrant green farmland as far as the eye could see. Spring lambs had arrived. They were frolicking in the fields, their eager bleats echoing through the valley. The morning air was not too chilly or too damp. Instead, a hint of warmth teased, bringing with it as much hope as the crocus buds that peeked through the dark dirt of the numerous clay pots decorating cleanly swept front porches.
It was the type of morning that encouraged a person to go out walking, to smile. The type of day that reminded one and all that God was present and did, indeed, bestow gifts.
In short, it was the type of day that used to give Darletta Kurtz hope. A day like this should have made her happy, revitalized her. It should have made her want to pull out a pencil and one of her many notebooks and record the images she saw and list activities she wanted to do.
It was the kind of day she used to love and maybe, just maybe, take for granted.
But now, as she rested her elbows on the worn wooden countertop that had no doubt supported generations of postal workers before her, Darla could only silently acknowledge that another day had come. It was sure to feel as endless as the one before it, and would no doubt be exactly like the rest of the week.
It was another day to get through. A way to pass ten hours of expected productivity before she could retreat to her bedroom and collapse on her bed. Only then would she feel any sense of peace. Because only then would she be able to wait for oblivion. She’d close her eyes, fall into a peaceful slumber, and, hopefully, forget her reality for eight hours.
It had been ninety-nine days since her father died. Tomorrow would bring the one hundredth. It was a benchmark she’d never intended to look forward to. Wearily, she wondered if anyone else in Charm was anticipating the milestone as well.
Undoubtedly some were.
After all, her father hadn’t been the only man to die in the December fire at Kinsinger Lumber Mill. No, he was one of five. And though it wasn’t as if she’d ever forget that fact, there were many in Charm who took care to remind her constantly.
Just then, Mary Troyer pushed open the door to the post office. Darla braced herself.
“You have a lot of nerve, Darletta Kurtz, getting a job here,” Mary said as she slapped a ten-dollar bill on the counter. “It’s bad enough that your family stayed in town. Most folks would have left in shame after what your father did. Yet, here you are, thriving.”
Each word hurt, as Mary no doubt intended for them to. Darla thought she would have been used to the verbal abuse by now, but it still felt as jarring as it had the first time. Mary’s son Bryan had died in the same accident as Darla’s father, and she took every opportunity to make sure everyone in town was aware of her pain.
Just as she had two days before, Darla did her best to keep her voice even and her expression impassive. “What is it you’ll be needing today, Mary?”
Mary’s cheeks puffed up before replying. “One book of stamps. The flags.”
Quickly she gave Mary the stamps and her change, taking care to set the money on the counter so their fingers wouldn’t have to touch. “Here you go.” Then—though she would have rather said something, anything else—she added the words she’d heard her boss say dozens of times: “Danke for coming in.”
Mary narrowed her eyes. “That is all you’re gonna say?”
It was obvious that Mary was itching for a fight. But no way was Darla going to give it to her. She’d learned at least a couple of things in the ninety-nine days since the accident at the mill.
And even though she might be wishing Mary to perdition in her darkest moments, she knew it was always best to turn the other cheek. “There’s nothing to say. Your mind is made up to be angry with me.”
“My ‘mind’ has nothing to do with the facts. Everyone in Charm knows that your father caused the fire at the mill. That fire killed my Bryan, Clyde Fisher, Paul Beachy, and Stephen Kinsinger.”
Standing as straight as her five-foot-two-inch frame allowed her to do, Darla added quietly, “You forgot John Kurtz, Mary. My father died, too, you know.”
“All of us are struggling with our losses. Struggling to make ends meet with our men gone. But here you are almost every morning, standing behind this counter with a smile on your face.”
Though Mary wasn’t the first person to say such a thing to her—she wasn’t even the twenty-first—Darla still didn’t understand why she should bear the weight of her father’s guilt.
Especially since it had been proven that it hadn’t been just her father’s negligence that had started the fire in the Dumpster. A variety of circumstances had taken place, which, when combined, had created a powerful explosion.
A rag, dampened by a flammable liquid, had been tossed into a Dumpster filled with wood scraps and hot metal that had been left heating over the course of the day. In no time at all, the rag had burst into flames, igniting the pine kindling. Before anyone was truly aware of the fire, the Dumpster had exploded, causing the nearby wood stacks in the back warehouse to catch fire, too. Though the emergency sprinklers had come on and the fire department and ambulances had been called, five people had died and scores of others had been injured.
Without a doubt, it had been the worst disaster to ever occur at Kinsinger Lumber Mill, and everyone who’d been there was marked by the terrible tragedy.
After the accident, fire marshals had investigated and declared that it had been caused by a series of unlikely events: a rare sunny day in December, hot metal in the Dumpster, and a pile of pine that someone had discarded instead of turning into wood shavings—all set ablaze by one rag.
No single person was to blame.
Furthermore, when Stephen Kinsinger’s son Lukas had taken over the mill, he’d publicly forgiven her father. However, the speech had done little to change the general feeling of anger and hurt that pervaded their village. It seemed that everyone needed a scapegoat. And her father had given them one.
Now, because John Kurtz was no longer walking God’s earth, more than a couple of people had transferred their pain and anger onto Darla and the rest of her family.
And after ninety-nine days of it, she’d had her fill.
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Hold Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
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