This novel also contains Part Two of the quilt instructions for the Crosses and Losses quilt that was begun in the first book in the series.
Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church and was often asked if she was Amish. (The answer was no.) She holds an MFA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she is part of the adjunct faculty. Between books, Adina enjoys playing the piano and Celtic harp, making historical costumes, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.
The first book in the ‘Amish Quilt’ series focused on Amelia, but this second offering follows Emma and her bumpy path to find true love. I liked Amelia in the first book, but I think I actually liked Emma even more. She kind of walks along the edge of what is considered acceptable for a good Amish women with her writing and her ability to sometimes say too much or to say it bluntly. I liked the fact that Emma realized that God had given her the gift of writing and that she needed to use it, even if those in authority might frown upon it.
I also liked Grant Weaver in this book, but since the story is only told from Emma’s point of view, I didn’t really get to know him as well as I might have liked. Since this is an Amish community, there are, of course, a lot of secondary characters to keep up with. Emma’s sister Karen was maddening, I thought, but it was really neat to see how well Emma handled herself in response to her prickly sister. It made me think about how I would sometimes do better to hold my tongue around certain people.
As is said in my review of the first book in the series, The Wounded Heart, when I read Amish novels, I tend to get too focused on the doctrine of the Amish church (which I obviously do not completely agree with, since I am not Amish) instead of just enjoying the story. This was especially true in this novel when it came to the references that one can lose his/her salvation. This was said in the context of leaving the Amish community – that when you go away from the ‘people of God’ you risk your eternal hope. It just makes me wonder what other people think when they read Amish novels that say this. I mean, I’m not Amish, but I do have an eternal hope. Christ is my Savior, my only hope of salvation, and nothing can separate me from that. But I am not a part of the Amish community, so how does that coincide?
I also was bothered by the tremendous amount of gossip and judgmental attitudes that existed in this fictional Amish community. I have heard jokes about the “Amish grapevine” being the best way to spread news in a community, but the gossip in this novel was just too much. It’s one thing to share news with your friends (i.e., Mary had her baby, or we think there will be lots of weddings this fall, or John fell when working on his roof last week), but to whisper and speculate to others in a cruel and judgmental attitude is not Christ-like. There was a quote in this book that I did like that said, “Little birds would do better to pay attention to their own nests and not chatter about other people. Gossip is a sin.” I totally agree with this, but apart from the three friends in this story (Emma, Carrie, and Amelia), there was no one else in the book who seemed to follow this. Emma was chastised by so many people for just having ice cream with a man, but no one is called out in this community for their sin of gossiping about it. This was just something that was hard for me to read in this novel. I like to read historical and Amish novels not just to be entertained but to learn something, and this book left me with a bad view of the Amish when it comes to not gossiping but extending grace to others.
Overall I thought this story was interesting, especially when it revolved around Emma and her writing. There were a few things that kept me from enjoying it fully, but I still look forward to finishing this series next year.
I will give The Hidden Life … 3 BookWorms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from FaithWords/Hachette Book Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."