Amy Clipston. A Simple Prayer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. See here to buy the book.
A Simple Prayer is Book Four of the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series. I have to admit that I have not read the previous three books of the series. I was not lost when following the plot of A Simple Prayer, and I still enjoyed the book, but I probably would have appreciated some scenes more had I read the previous three books. For example, Hannah, who left the Amish community to marry Trey in a previous book, finally became reconciled with her Amish daughter Lillian in A Simple Prayer. Saul and Madeleine continue their romance, which began in a previous book.
A Simple Prayer is about Aaron, who left the Amish community seventeen years ago and is returning after learning that his mother has had a stroke. Aaron left the community in disgrace after running with a wild crowd and inadvertently setting fire to the bishop’s barn. Aaron’s brother Solomon is not happy about his brother’s return and refuses to forgive him. Another significant character is Linda, who lost her parents in an accident when she was young and now takes care of her sour Uncle Reuben. Aaron and Linda develop feelings for each other as they share their problems and offer each other advice, and Linda wants Aaron to stay rather than returning to his business in Missouri. While the book does drag on a bit in rehearsing these problems, we learn that there is actually more to the problems than meets the eye.
There were many aspects of this book that interested me: How can people forgive? How can a person be pious and read the Bible, on the one hand, yet refuse to forgive, on the other? There are also themes of loneliness and finding confidence and self-esteem. And there is a poignant passage in which Aaron contrasts his mother after her stroke with his memories of his mother. It was easy for me as a reader to empathize with the characters: Linda in her bashfulness, Aaron in his loneliness, Uncle Reuben and Solomon in their bitterness, the bishop in his forgiveness, and Lillian in her desire to become reconciled with her mother, yet not quite knowing how to do so.
There are a lot of books out there with themes of return, forgiveness, and romance. I am unable to understand or articulate what exactly sets A Simple Prayer apart from them, in my mind, but I did enjoy the book, even if there are similar stories out there, some told well, and some told not-so-well. I think that what I especially appreciated about the book was that there was a quiet dignity about it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review.