Last week, I read (from start to finish!) A Wells Landing Christmas by Amy Lillard. This was the first book I’ve read by this author. I realized at the end of the book that it’s actually #8 in the A Wells Landing Romance series by Lillard. The author did a good job of making this a stand-alone book, so I understood it all without having read the previous seven books (although of course there are mentions of previous main characters from other books).
I like reading Amish fiction and I LOVE Christmas, so it was a fun read overall. I had never read an Amish book set in Oklahoma before (usually they’re set in Pennsylvania or Ohio). So that was a different twist. Also I had never heard of the Beachy Amish before - I thought it was because they lived in Florida lol! But then when I googled it, I realized that this more liberal Amish sect is named after a Bishop Moses Beachy. So it was interesting to learn about them and their belief system.
Anyways, the book is about young Ivy Weaver. She’s only 22 but that’s already considered an old maid in her conservative Amish community. Her father passed away unexpectedly a few years before, and then her mother decides to remarry and move with her new husband to an Amish community in Indiana. Ivy is left in Wells Landing, Oklahoma, to take care of her aging grandfather. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that her Dawdi is suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s. Ivy works full time to support the two of them, but is called away from work several times to come get her grandfather who has wandered away or gotten lost. And other times she arrives home after work to find her grandfather missing. The situation gets more and more stressful to Ivy as time goes on.
Ivy had fallen in love with Zeb Brenneman a few years before, but because neither of them had joined the church yet, they were not allowed to date. (I don’t think I had realized this about the Amish religion - that the young adults must join the church before they can even be allowed to date, let alone be married!) So they ended up sneaking around behind everyone’s backs, and eventually fall into temptation. Zeb eventually joined the church, but Ivy missed the baptismal classes (which are only offered every-other-year - good grief!!). Then after some unexpected turns of events, Ivy and Zeb broke up and he headed off to Florida and joined the Beachy Amish. Heart-broken, Ivy goes on a wild rumspringa and develops a very bad reputation in Wells Landing, to the point that basically no one in the community will have anything to do with her. In the Amish religion, a member of the church must confess before the entire congregation their (major) sins. Ivy technically doesn’t have to do this because she hasn’t joined, but she feels incredible guilt. And she knows that Zeb, as a member of the church, would have to confess their sins publicly. She just can’t bring herself to admit to everyone what they’ve done. It becomes a vicious cycle and she still hasn’t joined the church.
Right when Ivy is at her wits’ end as to what to do with her ailing grandfather who keeps on disappearing or getting lost, Zeb shows back up in town for the holidays. He offers to help take care of Dawdi so Ivy can work. Ivy wants nothing to do with Zeb, but realizes she needs the help.
Ivy also volunteers at a local Englischer nursing home in town, and becomes particularly close with one old man, who is dying. Ivy feels like the nursing home is the only place where she is accepted, because her Amish community certainly does not make her feel welcome.
Zeb tries to draw her back into their Amish community, but it is easier said than done. There are so many words left unsaid and unhealed wounds from years back.
I won’t say more, but this was a good book overall. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars. I felt like it was slow / repetitive for a majority of the book. Zeb reaches out to Ivy, Ivy spurns him and tells him they can never be together, Ivy is wracked with guilt over the past, repeat. Then at about 85% through the book (I was reading on my Kindle thus I know the percentage lol!), things picked up speed and got super complicated. The last 15% of the book was jam-packed and went lickety-split! I have no idea why the author tried to cram sooooo much into the last couple chapters of the book. It felt rushed and unruly. I really wish she had not had so much repetition in the first 85% of the book and then made a mad-dash to the finish line at the end. It was just unnecessary, and not good writing style / technique. I’m really surprised an editor didn’t catch this major flaw.
That being said, it was still an enjoyable book for the most part. If you want to read this, I would recommend reading the first seven books in the series before, so that this one makes a little more sense.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.