My first blog post is dated July 31, 2010. So on Friday this week, I will have been blogging for five months! I’ve wanted my blog to do-it-all: tell my own stories, relate other people’s stories, review great books, inspire, entertain, and offer giveaways. But the very best part of blogging has been connecting with new friends and old—readers, fellow bloggers, product reviewers, favorite authors, women of faith, other aspiring writers and book-aholics. So I hope you all will stick with me as we head into the New Year together!
This week I’ll be reviewing several books. On Tuesday I’m taking part in a blog tour for an intense suspense novel. Later in the week, I’m reviewing a perfect after-Christmas pick-me-up. And Monday is Book Club Day! If you love Amish fiction, you’ll want to know more about this month’s book.
Have you ever made a new acquaintance and almost immediately felt like you’d know them forever? That’s how I reacted to the charming Brenneman family. No matter that they’re creations of author Shelley Shepard Gray. After reading Grace: A Christmas Sisters of the Heart Novel, I wish I too had shown up at the door of the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast to be welcomed as an unofficial member of the family!
This story begins on December 20, with the Brennemans discussing how they’ve accepted no reservations for the week of Christmas. Their rooms will be filled with family. They have plans to spend their days reading, taking long walks, baking, doing puzzles, and otherwise, relaxing. All that changes when two unexpected guests arrive.
What happens next? Nothing out of the ordinary. A hunting trip. Some car trouble. A little fighting and misunderstanding and making up. New friendships are forged. Folks fall in love. A baby is born. And all within the space of a few days’ time.
The novel Grace focuses on the inner conflicts of several characters. Handsome Levi comes to the inn to wait out the holidays and their painful memories as best he can. However, the Lord wastes “no time in proving to him that it wasn’t possible to avoid feelings and responsibilities and hurts. They always came back.” In spite of his pain, he finds himself drawn to Melody, who is due to give birth any day.
Winsome Melody has been the victim of an assault that left her pregnant. At first, “she felt embarrassed and worried and scared. And so completely, totally worthless.” As she and Levi form a fragile friendship, she grows more confident that God has not abandoned her and has good things in store for her future. A future which might include raising her baby. When Levi asks if keeping her child will remind her of the terrible man who hurt her, Melody says, “Yes, but I think it will also be a reminder to me that the Lord doesn’t do anything without a reason. Perhaps one day I’ll discover what His reasons were for me to have this child.”
Gray also shows the budding friendship of another couple, Leah and Zack. Leah is Melody’s best friend, who is determined to make her way through a storm to be with her friend. And Zack is the young patrolman she meets along the way.
The Brennemans work their magic on all these people by exercising their gift of hospitality. They provide the atmosphere of acceptance, kindness, and peace. And God does the rest.
The theme of the book is summed up in the title: Grace. I once learned the definition of this word in acronym style:
Grace is epitomized by God sending His Son to pay the price for your sin and mine. Grace is God loving us while we were yet sinners. Grace is God giving us the gift of a relationship with Him, made possible because of all His Son gave up for us.
Are you interested in experiencing a taste of Brenneman life yourself? Author Shelley Shepard Gray has written two series, Sisters of the Heart and Seasons of Sugarcreek. You can follow this link to view all of her books and make a few purchases!
- At first Katie Lundy resents the arrival of Melody and Levi because she feels they’ve ruined her family’s Christmas. What is your idea of the perfect Christmas? Do you recall a Christmas when things didn’t go as planned? How did you respond and what did you learn?
- Melody never wavered in her decision to keep her baby. Was this the right decision? Would you have blamed her if she had wanted to give the baby up for adoption?
- Leah was determined to go out of her way to be by Melody’s side on Christmas Day. Have you ever gone out of your way for a friend? What was the result?
- The Amish rarely decorate for Christmas. They have no tree, nativity, or wreath. They sing no Christmas carols. However, many exchange Christmas cards, bake cookies, and give one or two meaningful gifts. Do you think most families would benefit from simplifying their Christmas a bit? In what ways?
- One of the Brenneman’s traditions is to read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. What are some family traditions you love?
- The concept of grace is an integral one to the story. How have you experienced grace in your life?
Now for the giveaway! I have a $10 Amazon gift card to give away to one fortunate winner. Mandatory entry: Follow my blog via Facebook at this link and answer one of the discussion questions–even if you haven’t read the book. (There are several to choose from in case you’re tired of talking about Christmas.)
Bonus entries: Make separate comments for each bonus entry.
1. Follow my blog through Google Friend Connect.
2. Subscribe to my blog via email–through the box in the sidebar–and make sure your subscription is verified.
3. Answer any additional discussion question.
Feel free to return to this post any time until the end of December to complete more bonus entries!
And . . . let me add that I give Joy to the World when I write about beautiful, uplifting literature!