Beside Still Waters is an unexpected and gorgeous treat of a book. It’s like buying a trip off the Internet for the first time. You cross your fingers and take a leap of faith. Then you get there and discover you landed a 5 star resort with world class dining and an unexpected room upgrade. It is clear from page two on that Beside Still Waters is the equivalent of landing a five star resort. On this journey there is fine writing with great and moving characters and a stunning, heart-wrenching, plot. From the first page the author grabs you and won’t let you go. Tricia Goyer has a real talent for gripping your heart, evoking emotion, and inspiring imagination. Beside Still Waters: A Big Sky Novel is the first book in a new series by Goyer. The book begins with a terrible tragedy, and an early birth that follows hot on the heels of the tragedy – life asserting itself even as grief reigns down on the Sommer family. The plot that unfolds reveals themes of growth, grief, romance, faith, differences and tolerance. Marianna is the infant born the same day her parents experience a horrible life-altering tragedy. She is, at once, a blessing and a lifelong reminder of their tragedy. Not surprisingly her character is sobre beyond her years. Marianna is the eldest daughter in her family and therefore often charged with child care. When we first meet her she is 18 planning a life in her community in Indiana, a place she has known all of her life. But her family is unable to move past their losses. They have also lost an older son, Levi, the brother to Marianne, who chose to leave Amish life for the world of the Englisch. In Indiana, Aaron Zook is the near perfect Amish young man who has her in his sights and quickens her heart. He is already building their home together despite having never really even asked her for an official date. Despite the many sadnesses that plague and follow Marianna, she believes she can see a future with Aaron. But her father shocks her with news they will leave their home and try to start fresh in Montana. Marianna agrees to give the new home six months and then she will return to her church, her home and the life that is waiting with Aaron. Or will she? A long train trip with her family is Marianna’s first real experience with the Englisch. And while there is a lovely older woman who speaks to her of faith and trusting God on the train trip, there is also a belligerent drunk young man who hits on Marianna prompting her father to step in and threaten physical retaliation. Goyer has an interesting way of illustrating the good with the bad and through her character’s psychological journeys, showing that black and white sometimes make grey.
Tricia Goyer is a remarkable talent. Goyer is the author of 24 books including Songbird Under a German Moon. She has also written a Mommy memoir called Blue Like Play Dough. She has been published in magazines and has written for Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on The Family. She doesn’t rely on the old standby stereotypes, or even the predictable Amish fiction romance plots. Her characters challenge the norms for Amish tradition. They have strong psychological lives. For instance, while it is common that Amish people live all their life in one area, this family in Beside Still Waters, moves to Montana. Despite the fact that the Amish are peaceful people, they can also be moved to violence should the opportunity demand it. Marianna’s father threatens to hit a young man hitting on Marianna when she is on the train ride. Marianna questions him after and he tells her he was merely calling the young man’s bluff. Goyer magically balances the allure of that which is different, the English culture, and the appeal of a familiar Amish life. She has created in Marianna a really strong, authentic, and lovely character I hope readers get to see more of in future books. To assume that this is a simple romance is to do great injustice to this novel, a book that could hold its own with any best-selling fiction novel I have read.
Beside Still Waters, by Tricia Goyer, released April 2011, paperback, is published by B&H books, 320 pages and $14.99 US.
I give this one a $$$$ 1/2 out of $$$$$.
I was provided with a free copy of this book to review. This in no way impacts my opinion.
Tricia Goyer has her own blog over at http://www.triciagoyerblogspot.com/
She is running a giveaway there right now offering five readers each a copy of this book. She also has a unique Amish salt and pepper set for one winner.