Kathleen Fuller. A Love Made New. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. See here to buy the book.
A Love Made New is the third book of the “Amish of Birch Creek” series. I did not read the first book of the series, A Reluctant Bride, but I did read the second book of the series, An Unbroken Heart.
Even after reading the second book, I had some difficulty sorting out who was who in A Love Made New, at least in the first half of the book. For a while, I thought that Sol was Andrew’s brother, since both had fathers who left their family. Then I learned that Sol’s love interest Irene was Andrew’s sister! Should I have known better, since I had read the second book of the series? Well, it had been a few months since I read the second book, so some details were hazy in my mind. I doubt that I am the only one in this situation! I think that more authors of Amish fiction should do what Amy Clipston does, and that is to include a family tree at the beginning of the book.
That said, can one read A Love Made New without having read the previous books of the series? I think readers in that situation can follow the general plots. Occasionally, some details will be puzzling to those who did not read the previous books. For example, there is a scene in which characters talk about someone who is in jail, and only those familiar with the previous two books will know why that man is in jail, and why the characters care. The romances, though, are not that complicated to follow. And they differ from the previous books in that they focus on other characters (who are still in the previous books, but not as the main focus). The first book focused on Sadie and Aden. The second book was primarily about Sadie’s sister Joanna and her love interest, Andrew. And the third book is about Abigail, a sister of Sadie and Joanna, and her relationship with a new character, Asa. The third book also talks about a romance between Andrew’s sister Irene and Sol, who is Aden’s brother. Although the third book focuses on different characters, it still revisits plot-lines of the second book, namely, Bartholomew, the father of Andrew and Irene, who left the family years before because he was part of the witness protection program.
In A Love Made New, Abigail’s boyfriend Joel breaks up with her and reveals that he is seeing somebody else, Rebecca. Abigail is insecure about her weight and her temperament, and the break-up only makes her feel worse. But Asa comes into her life! Asa used to live in the same place as Abigail, but his family moved away. Asa was known as a ladies’ man before he moved away: all of the ladies liked him! Now Asa has returned, and he is showering his attention upon Abigail. What’s more, Asa claims that God told him to do this!
Then there is Sol and Irene. Sol is an alcoholic, and his drunken mischief (I am assuming) got him banished from the community for some time. Now he has returned, and Irene is reaching out to him to try to welcome him back. Sol is still dealing with his resentments. His father, who was a bishop, left the family, and his father was also abusive to Sol and Aden.
Meanwhile, Irene, her mother Naomi, and her brother Andrew are dealing with the absence of the father of their family, Bartholomew. They love Bartholomew and still consider him part of the family. This situation reminds me of Chicken George’s family in the 1977 miniseries Roots: Chicken George was away for long periods of time, but his family loved him and welcomed him back whenever he could return, almost as if he had never left! Bartholomew’s family receives letters from Bartholomew, which upsets Mike, who oversees Bartholomew in the witness protection program.
The book had its share of positives. Abigail’s attempts to fake a smile at Joanna’s wedding stood out, as Abigail was hoping that her fake, exaggerated smile did not make her look creepy! Not only can I identify with that, but this scene effectively conveyed the pain that Abigail was trying to endure, even as social niceties required her to act happy at her sister’s wedding. Sol and Irene pray together, and Sol apologizes for praying more about his own problems than those of Irene. And Asa finding his calling made him a character with whom one can identify.
In terms of negatives, the book was rather repetitive. I am not saying that Abigail and Sol should have gotten over their insecurities quickly, for that is not realistic. But the book would have done better to have probed or explored different aspects of their insecurities, rather than covering the same ground over and over. Perhaps more flashbacks or diverse reflections could have accomplished this. This not only would have made the book more interesting, but it also would have made the characters more rounded and realistic. When Sol is struggling to forgive his father, for example, the book could have added more of the thought processes that led him to forgiveness.
The book also should have had more of an element of mystery, rather than telling readers things, then repeating those things over and over. To be fair, the book did have its share of mysteries. It is only later in the book that we get Sol’s story about his father. Bartholomew is wondering why he is still in the witness protection program, when the criminals are in jail, and we get an answer to that. But the book could have been more intriguing had it, for example, opened with Sol hearing from God, wrestling with God, and reflecting on his supernatural experiences as of late. Sol’s supernatural experiences were significant in the book, but they could have been better explored and developed.
That said, I am still open to reading other novels by Kathleen Fuller. The one coming out in March 2017, Written in Love, focuses on Sol’s best friend Jalon. And, after reading a few references to the plot of the first book of the “Birch Creek” series in the sequels and summaries, I may read A Reluctant Bride.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers. My review is honest.