Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: 'The Shunning,' DVD written Beverly Lewis

Review: 'Beverly Lewis, The Shunning'...a DVD
by Peter Menkin
Beverly Lewis, successful Christian author
of best selling books

The DVD Releases website, found here, says of the movie: Katie Lapp (Danielle Panabaker) has always struggled with the rules that define her sheltered Amish community, but when a wealthy outsider (Sherry Stringfield) begins asking questions about her family, Katie begins to wonder about her origins. What connection does this woman have to her life…and how will the unraveling secrets challenge Katie’s faith? Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning is a powerful, personal journey of discovery based on the famous novel by the New York Times bestselling author.

Variety posts this lineup, in part: Filmed in North Carolina by Believe Pictures and Lightworks Pictures. Executive producers, Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Maura Dunbar; co-executive producer, Cindy Bond; producers, Mitchell Galin, Carey Nelson Burch; director, Michael Landon Jr.; writer, Chris Easterly…

In this heartfelt and even riveting DVD, Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning, this writer found it a pretty movie with vistas of the Amish country and community located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Written by The New York Times bestselling author and popular writer of Christian books, Beverly Lewis, this tale of a sorry 20 year old woman’s need to leave her family, friends, but mostly Amish religious community can’t help in its drama and story to move the movie viewer. The DVD runs 88 minutes and is from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .

DVD released to public
 September 13, 2011

Director of Photography: Christo Bakalov shot pretty and scenic footage of the Amish community, and in his restrained way let the actors play their parts without a lot of fast cuts and special cinematography of effects and methods. This made for a statement of plainness and prettiness (in the better sense) contributing in picture and color to the genuine simplicity and affection of the scenes and thespian portrayal of emotion. This is not so easy to be simple and restrained, yet effective, with a film camera.

The review itself starts here:

This writer suspended his judgments to become engaged in the unfolding tale of a tragic journey where the protagonist Katie Lapp, so well and believably played with lovely appeal by Danielle Panabaker must go into the world. Could she not work out and find herself in her community, too? Must she have left her religious community and enter our contemporary society? I wondered, how she must have been shocked on leaving the religious life, a life in which she grew up, was rooted, and deeply involved with in every aspect of living.

As a Benedictine Oblate, I felt a sense of great loss for her and her religious community. Nonetheless, as a DVD portraying so well through the direction of Michael Landon, Jr. the Amish community, its people’s lives, and their relationships, there is the key question of faith. Was her faith failing before the revelation of being an adopted child? Was it the appearance of her birth mother, Laura (Sherry Stringfield), that upset her so much? Did her failures and sins in behavior demonstrate a woman failing in her faith and religious practice, as the community understood her role and behavior to be required? These big questions of living are well wrought in love and even compassion, but a kind of toughness of character that speaks of how ones sins without contrition, confession, and amendment of ways can lead to evil and ill situations. But then you as a viewer may think she did the right thing, leaving her community because she was shunned for her actions and failures in faith and behavior. You as a viewer will be entertained by this DVD Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning. You will be engaged, and moved, and likely not able to avoid the emotion of the story and excellent acting by the cast, especially the role of the young woman’s mother, actress Sandra Van Natta.

This is a review of high praise, for it is the kind of movie this writer enjoys, and though some may say this is a woman’s film, it is certainly a Christian movie—a faith movie about an American religious community that can be called a kind of utopia.

Her sins: She likes to play a guitar, and plays forbidden music. Writer Beverly Lewis when talking with me spoke of her sympathies for the young woman, and though did not overtly declare she (Beverly Lewis) was happy she left the religious community, that message was clear. Miss Lewis spoke of having known Amish who did the same, and Miss Lewis indicated she thought them justified and right in doing so. Apparently, to Beverly Lewis, Shunning is a terrible thing the Amish do to those who are falling outside their acceptable participation in the community’s religious life, as judged by The Bishop and community.

Let me note that this is a movie that is a heart breaker. A compassionate and kind old woman who is a widow listens to the young Katie tell her stories. This is a sympathetic scene, repeated in its exploration of motivation and loves a number of times, and so genuine and touching in its actress’ work showing relationship and Christian character. Actress Nancy Saunders is wonderful and so warm, patient in her ethos of not quite being a mother, but more as a special friend of grandmotherly years to the young woman. A young woman who in one scene had just abandoned her betrothed at the altar—he a Bishop, too. Her confessor as well. Burgess Jenkins plays the role of a somewhat reserved and a little stiff character with dignity and respect. He is believable as the older widower seeking the young bride who can help with house and children.

A man who led the religious community as both spiritual leader and man who must make life decisions as a wise man in the Amish religious community. This writer will tell you, he must judge her behavior and sin. But enough said about this series of responsibilities of his and the terrible decision he makes for the woman who abandoned him at the altar. The movie is played and directed with a light touch to help bring the viewer along with the serious themes and situations shown.

For me, this movie was spellbinding at times. But it is my kind of movie. I love love stories, even this kind where love seems lost, is sought through trauma, and the need to find oneself as a young person leads to abandonment of one’s previous life. Let me ask another question: Is all that change and conflict, transformation of life and seeking really motivated in all its parts by love and not sin? Good question, this writer thinks.

There is sorrow. What is Christian life without sorrow?

Author Beverly Lewis spends some time and the DVD plays it well regarding the development of the young Katie Lapp, who is boy crazy over one young man Daniel (David Topp), earlier in her life. She cannot forget him when it comes to her decision not to marry The Bishop. It is because of his sin in tempting her to play the illegal music, which he teaches her, and also because he dies young, that she cannot forget him. Again, is this a bonding in love, or might we say they were both by their behavior bad and rebelling against the community, if not engaged in sin which he was seducing her to practice? The sin of denying her religion and faith, the sin of secret meetings, the sin even of seduction that never happens but young love that seems so real that the viewer must ask, was it, is it—it appeared genuine love between the two.

There is no doubt she has questions without answers that lead to doubt. She has difficulties with religious obedience, the cultural and familial practices of respect—especially for her father. This is no feminist film, by the way. But the Amish life is not the secular world of the 21st century that is the hallmarked world of outside living in today’s American society in town. There is no doubt, she sins and her faith is tested. It is found short, and she has no desire to go on with “the life” in religious community, let alone her family life where she was raised with love and care. Finding out she was adopted proves too much for her. It is more than shock, perhaps it is the action that leads to her critical need to leave her family and community.

The theme of the adoption, the birth mother, and the mystery surrounding this suddenly discovered truth is a fascinating issue of family and relational kind investigated by the DVD movie. That alone is worth the price of admission, and some may find they cry when watching the former television show from the Hallmark channel.

This well ordered life of the Amish, lived in God’s view, holds in this story version–DVD released September 12, 2011—plays in the show throughout its length so much intimate conversation. Before leaving, as an example of some of the wisdom and intimacy of conversation, she goes to find in the world something of living life—answers she seeks. She is told by the old wise woman that she will find what she has here (in the Amish Community) what she lives out there. The old woman doesn’t chide the young woman, or say, but you will be missing the Amish Christian life and way.

There is Christian hope, and this viewer wishes her such hope in her life. This remains, even in conflict and transformation, in character and tragedy relationship in the light of God in Christ. This couldn’t be better. You will enjoy this movie, and be moved to the heart by the film, Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning.

Beverly Lewis Library Presentation

Beverly Lewis at the Pikes Peak Library District Mountain of Authors 2009 event



TALKING ABOUT BEVERLY LEWIS’ THE SHUNNING, a DVD appearing in stores September 13, 2011. Miss Lewis tells us about her work on the story, a riveting and heartfelt, moving show that appeared on the Hallmark Channel in 2011.

Some biographical notes on Beverly Lewis: Favorite Verse:(NIV) Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

All her life she has longed for the forbidden things, but will her dreams come at a price too dear to pay? Why would Katie Lapp’s mother, a plain and simple Amish woman who embraces the Old Ways, hide a beautiful satin baby dress in the attic? The staggering answer comes on the eve of Katie’s wedding to widower Bishop John, throwing her life–present and future–into confusion.

  • Winner of the Gold Book Award (500,000 copies sold)
  • Winner of the ECPA Platinum Award (1 million sold)

From Christianbook description of the movie edition that sells for $9.99

Beverly Lewis has written over 100 books for children, youth, and adults, many of which have appeared on bestseller lists, including USA Today and The New York Times. The Brethren won a 2007 Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction. Beverly and her husband, David, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Beverly Lewis’ series include Seasons of Grace Series, The Courtship of Nellie Fisher Series, The Annie’s People Series, Abram’s Daughters Series, The Heritage of Lancaster County, several “stand-alone” novels, and her newest adult series, Rose Trilogy. Her children’s series include Holly’s Heart Series, SummerHill Secrets Vols. 1 & 2, Girls Only! Series, and the highly acclaimed, Cul-de-Sac Kids Series.

Barnes and Noble says this about the author: Beverly Lewis, raised in Pennsylvania Amish country, is a former schoolteacher and accomplished musician, and an award-winning author of more than eighty books for adults and children, many of which have appeared on bestseller lists, including USA Today and the New York Times. Six of her blockbuster novels have received the Gold Book Award for sales over 500,000, and The Brethren won a 2007 Christy Award for excellence in Christian Fiction. Beverly and her husband, David, live in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, and making music, and spending time with their three grandchildren.

 About the book (comment by one reader named Anonymous), found here on Barnes and Noble:

Simple & Sweet
The Shunning is the story of a young Amish girl and her struggle between her faith in the established rules of her people versus the desires of her heart. I chose this book because I was interested in learning about Amish customs and the strain they put on developing Amish children. The story, written in third person, tells the story of Katie Lapp, a girl who is not satisfied with her Amish life. She feels like there is something missing. At first Katie believes that she is not satisfied because being Amish does not allow her to experience the technology and the beauty of a normal life. She longs for pretty dresses and a life where she is free to sing all kinds of music. As the story progresses, questions arise when Katie finds a satin, infant gown in her attic with the name Katherine Mayfield sown on it. As Katie begins her quest to find out who she really is she discovers that what is missing in her heart is not an easier or a prettier way of life, it is Jesus Christ. On the day of Katie’s wedding to Bishop John, Katie has mixed emotions. Unable to go through with it, she runs away leaving the Bishop at the altar. Furious, the Bishop rules that Katie must confess her sins in front of the community or be shunned from it. Unable to bring herself to apologize for something she does not feel sorry for, Katie is shunned. The first 6 weeks of the shunning entail a period where she is to have no communication with anyone in the village. The period is supposed to initiate a confession from her or she would face being banned and sent away from Hickory Hollow forever. The six weeks prove to be a trying time for Katie Lapp. Without her friends and family she feels completely alone. She often finds herself thinking about the boy she loved who drowned in a storm, while on his boat. Daniel Fisher had shown her a different way, a better way. She remembers the days they used to spend their afternoons together making music on his guitar. Though she had never truly understood what Dan was talking about, his words become clearer and clearer to her each day. She comes to realize that being Christian is not about following man made rules it is about accepting Jesus as your savior. The climax of the story comes when Katie must decide between the outside world and the world she’s always called home. The plot of this story takes place in a small community called Hickory Hollow in Pennsylvania. The writer uses a rural dialect, which is very simplistic in order to mirror the Amish lifestyle. The book is a simple, but sweet targeting primarily a female audience. Though the story turned out to be quite predictable, I enjoyed it because it not only showed me a life different from my own, it showed me that sometimes you have to question your belief system in order to change it.

The DVD can be ordered through Barnes and Noble here

Other movies on DVD by the director Michael Landon, Jr. are here.

Director Michael Landon, Jr. with camera


The author Beverly Lewis talks with this writer by phone from her home Small office overlooking Pike’s Peak in Colorado. At 11:10 a.m. in that morning, this writer spoke with her using questions sent in advance from his home office north of San Francisco with hopes she would have plenty of time. Not so, as the next day Beverly Lewis was to begin a book tour September 7, 2011. Many answers were given in writing by author Beverly Lewis.

1.1. For some time you have been a successful writer of fiction. Your upcoming DVD, “Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning,” is part of the article-interview where this series of questions with your answers will appear. The first thing this writer noticed was that you are an industry unto yourself. That is, most of the material on the web that is more easily found points to success, your Christian faith, and how many books you’ve sold. Some consists of heartfelt comments by readers, genuine in their sense of being moved by your books about the Amish Community in the United States. When did you become so famous, and what is it like being something of a star in the fiction world where you are kind of an industry unto yourself? Granted there aren’t knickknacks in your name, and you don’t run for President of the United States offering bumper stickers for fans like humor writer Dave Barry. (He a real industry unto himself for others.). Still, tell us what fame has brought you in your life as a writer.

Being a writer, like many other writers, who might prefer the behind-the-scenes aspect of creating and rewriting, I’ve never sought popularity, or fame as you put it. Hearing that millions of readers have been touched by my stories is the thing that brings me true joy. Fame, if you will, has provided me many opportunities to touch the hearts of more people with the inspirational aspects of my novels set in the cloistered society of the Amish—in Lancaster County, Pa specifically.

When I’m out touring and speaking, I love connecting with my readers, being given the chance to encourage them or just listen to the hearts of the many who stand in line to meet me. I want to do my part to make a difference in this world, whether in the compelling stories I write… or in meeting and greeting my dear reader-friends

Actually in 1993 and 1994 I began writing for young readers, the Culdasac Kids Chapter Book series, and the Holly Heart series for teen girls. These books are all on my website So that was when my books became known and I began to be known as a book writer. Prior to that I wrote magazine articles and fiction for magazines: Highlights for Children, the Breakaway and the Brio magazines for children. Most of them weren’t Christian magazines. Really, really I was published in many Sunday school papers. They give you five copies for pay. For pay it took me a while to break into Christian publications.

Being a writer like many writers who might prefer the back the scene parts of being a writer as I like it. Fame has given me many opportunities to touch the hearts of millions of my readers. Especially the Lancaster series. When I’m out reading and speaking, I love getting in touch with my readers and getting to meet those in line with the people to meet me. I’m going to seven states, for two weeks and that starts tomorrow, Wednesday, September 7, 2011 [The itinerary is available on the website .] I will be signing the DVD on the 13th, but I am going to promote my new book, The Mercy, today. It is the third in the Rose Trilogy of the Amish series.

We were dirt poor and my Daddy was a pioneer minister. I learned firsthand how to trust God as a first experience. I learned as a grassroots experience and a faith based lifestyle. My Daddy was paid in chickens back in the late forties before I was born. He was a very young Assembly of God pastor and minister. That is how I began by being born in Lancaster County, PA in Amish country. It is pronounced “Ahmish.” That’s how they pronounce it.

1.2. For me, the television show “Shunning,” that appeared on the Hallmark Channel this May, 2011 and will September 13, 2011 be available as a DVD in retail stores etc. was a heartfelt and touching tale of honesty and genuine situation. This is real praise. I am certainly not alone for having been moved by the television show. But I did wonder if you felt the Amish had failed the young woman of 20 who leaves for the world outside her religious community to seek herself. I can’t help but wonder what if she hadn’t left for the world and as a younger woman stayed with her community to find her life. Is there really so much difference in doing so, and do you think she might have done otherwise than leave for the world? Why did you want the character to leave her community?

I wanted Katie Lapp to leave because this is a real situation. There are about 10 percent of the young people that leave the community. There are always some who are free thinkers and want to leave the rules. It’s

It was an honor to promote Michael Landon Jr.'s DVD ("Beverly Lewis' The Shunning), available September 13th, at the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta, GA this past week. Here I am with the delightful Lovell-Fairchild Communications publicity team (Lucas and Julie). I'll post where you can see YouTube clips and other media interviews regarding the soon to release DVD.

It's hard playing the music that is forbidden in the Amish Communities; they are not allowed to play instruments. You can’t be shunned if you don’t join the Church. The parent too wants them to take their time. Katie joined the Church. She had joined as a young woman and had already made her Baptismal vow. She was shunned because she broke the vow and played her guitar and failed to marry the Bishop. She was shunned because she continued to play her guitar. It is continuing to this day. This story is based on reality, but Katie is a fictional character.

Well, we know that all cultures, and especially religious sub-groups, can be a mixed bag. While the Amish society has much to teach us—we who live with a hectic pace and the high-tech mentality of the 21st century, Amish are also quite human…just as all church groups who heavily rely on an ordinance to enforce rules and expectations. The aspect of group speak and/or embracing antiquated priority in an ever-changing world, is constricting to many in the Amish church—I’ve talked with them—and this is demonstrated by Katie Lapp’s heart-breaking story in The Shunning movie, as well as the book, where she is forbidden to express herself musically.

1.3. Sometimes these suggestions of another scenario for a story don’t really hold true, as is outlined in the question previous. Nonetheless, having read some of the material about your own experience and knowledge of the Amish, which I hear is considerable, can you tell us whether you have an admiration for that community and religious communities of their various kinds in general? Will you speak to us of the special world of the religious community, and how it may have influenced your own life as a Christian living in the world? What is your denomination faith, by the way? I couldn’t find that out in the press material that is available. Readers may be interested to know, and I certainly am as interviewer.

I do highly respect many of the qualities of the Lancaster County Amish, of which I’m most familiar. The aspect of community is very appealing—when was the last time you walked down the street of your own neighborhood and spoke to them by name—or sat on their front porches and shared your week with them, while sipping lemonade or…even being invited over for dinner? People in our society are isolated—they don’t know each other anymore. We rely on FB and other forms of social networking, hiding behind the screen of our cell phones and computers. But, the Amish, now THEY know how to interact face-to-face, sitting down as an extended family, having three squares a day.

Another wonderful draw to the Amish community is the sense of belonging. Each child is cherished, each person—no matter the age or infirmity or mental ability—is accepted and provided for. (Talk about the Dawdi Hauses—the “grandfather houses” built onto the main farmhouse, where the elderly relatives or maiden aunts live and are cared for.)

Also, the love for family and each person in the community. The aspects of submission to each other, as taught in the New Testament.

And, I think many readers would agree with me that the spiritual covering the Amish embrace over their lives is very appealing—if not fascinating in its convicting sense.

Trailer: Promo by Hallmark

1.4. You are considered a Christian writer, or what is also known as a faith writer with so many, many successful and well received, even loved books. One Saturday recently I sat at one of the big box stores near where I live (Costco) and sat with a stranger who it turned out watched your Hallmark television show “Shunning” four times. She was not really as a Christian woman a “fan” of yours, but let me say something more significant than fan; she was an admirer of you as writer and moved by your Christian conviction. But more, she was also a kind of student of your writing which she found telling to her heart, and for her money truly Christian writing. I suspect this experience of mine could be repeated a hundred, a thousand times by people who love your work. And they do love it as an admirer and reader cares about character, story, and Christian relationship in life situations. Speak to us some about people who like her have talked with you or questioned you about their own interest in your books, especially “Shunning.” Can you give us some anecdotal story about one or two people who stick in your mind? I am sure you care about your readers, for that is one hallmark of the kind of way your books are written—if I am not mistaken. Am I not correct about that?

One of my readers is a state patrolman who stood in a long line during one of my recent book tours. He said he felt compelled to meet me because my books had changed his thinking—and his life. He craved simplicity and peace and found them in my stories set in Amish country.

Another reader (from Ohio) wrote to tell me she has been shunned 5 times and struggles greatly with submitting to the authority of the Amish church—just as Katie Lapp struggles in the movie, “Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning.”) She revealed that she so admired other Amish women who could easily follow the rules of the Ordnung—the church ordinance—and wondered why she was born a free-thinker and, even, a free-spirit, trapped in the cloistered community of her heritage. She thanked me for showing all the angles of the Amish society in my many books and said she very much drew courage from reading Katie Lapp’s story, “The Shunning.”

1.5. If there is anything that I have left out of this interview, and I am sure I have missed much in the short time we’ve had together, please let me know what you’d like to add or say for the end of our interview. I enjoyed this conversation by phone, and am glad to make your acquaintance.

I want to talk about the emotional component that is laid out on the screen. I felt that Michael Landon Jr. really got it right. He chose the right cast of actors for my story: incredible casting. When I first saw the uncut, unedited version, I was so moved there were actually tears in my eyes. When I saw Daniele Tannebaker who played Katie Lapp I told my husband, that’s my Katie. I was so impressed. The wise woman Ella Mae, she was remarkable.


Here is a tag to the interview above by this writer, Peter Menkin, with author of the book The Shunning by Beverly Lewis and the just released DVD Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning. The tab is an interview published in the Assembly of God magazine with Beverly Lewis, and here are three questions taken from that interview written by Jennifer McClure found on the Assembly of God website:

The whole interview is found here.


Recently she spoke with Assistant Editor Jennifer McClure.
Pentecostal Evangel Assembly of God magazine

tpe: What does motherhood mean to you?

LEWIS: It is a blessing from the Lord — the Scriptures say that, and it is absolutely true. Two of our children are disabled, so each day for us is a gift from the Lord that my husband and I can speak into the lives of our children, and now our grandchildren.

tpe: How has motherhood influenced your work?

LEWIS: It has influenced it greatly. Readers familiar with my novels and my work will see a strong, nurturing, maternal thread. Whether it’s the main story line or subplot, there is always someone either wishing to connect with a parent or searching for her or his roots. I think I’ve been accused of being stuck on the maternal subplot or plot, but it’s so engrained in me.

tpe: Having adopted all three of your children, what advice would you give to couples considering adoption?

LEWIS: I believe couples who have longed for a child and have tried various ways to conceive their own must come to a point where they consider making this leap in their mind and emotions. Are you willing, first, and are you ready, second, to embrace another person’s child as your own?

I’ve counseled a number of women on this. Some are and some aren’t. Some would prefer to continue living with the incredible yearning for a baby or a child and walk away from the whole idea of adoption if they can’t have their own flesh-and-blood child. And that is absolutely everyone’s own decision to make.

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From The Hallmark Channel website, found here.

Danielle Panabaker / KatieA stunning and talented young actress, Danielle Panabaker has quickly grabbed attention as one of Hollywood’s most vibrant stars.Panabaker next stars in John Carpenter’s latest thriller “The Ward” opposite Amber Heard. She also stars opposite Bobby Cannavale in the upcoming independent feature, “Weakness.”Panabaker recently starred in Overture Films’ “The Crazies” directed by Breck Eisner. She starred opposite Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell as the receptionist at a medical center in a small town whose residents mysteriously begin going insane. Panabaker also starred as the female lead in the highly anticipated remake of “Friday the 13th,” opposite Jared Padalecki. The Paramount film, directed by Marcus Nispel and produced by Michael Bay, was released on February 13, 2009 and grossed over $43 million its opening weekend, setting a new record for the highest take for an R-rated horror film. She also appeared opposite Kevin Costner and Dane Cook in the MGM thriller “Mr. Brooks.” Her additional film credits include Sony Pictures’ “Yours, Mine and Ours,” opposite Renee Russo and Dennis Quaid and Disney’s “Sky High,” opposite Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston.On television, Panabaker starred as James Woods’ unwaveringly wise daughter on the CBS drama “Shark.” Panabaker also garnered much critical acclaim for her breakout performance in the HBO miniseries “Empire Falls,” in which she starred opposite Paul Newman and Ed Harris.Panabaker appeared in the Disney Channel Original Movie “How My Personal Private Journal Became a Best-Selling Novel,” where she and her sister, Kay, played versions of the same character. Panabaker’s additional television work includes starring roles in “Searching for David’s Heart,” for which she won the 2005 Young Artist Award for Best Performance for a TV Movie Leading Young Actress, “Mom at Sixteen,” “Sex and the Single Mom” and the Disney Channel Original Movie “Stuck in the Suburbs.” Her guest starring roles include “The Guardian,” for which she won the 2004 Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a TV Series Guest Starring Young Actress, “Chase,” “Law and Order: LA,” “Medium,“ “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Eli Stone,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “CSI,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Summerland.”Born in Georgia, Panabaker graduated from high school at the age of 14 and received her Bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA. She currently resides in Los Angeles.


Excerpt from The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

From the book and DVD tour: Barnes and Noble, Oklahoma

No girl should have been made over the way Mamma carried on about me. Being Mam’s favorite was both a blessing and a curse, I decided.

In their younger years, my brothers—Elam, Eli, and Benjamin—were more ornery than all the wicked kings in the Bible combined—a regular trio of tricksters. Especially Eli and Benjamin. Elam got himself straightened out some last year around Thanksgiving, about the time he married Annie Fisher down Hickory Lane. The responsibilities of farming and caring for a wife, and a baby here before long, would settle most any fellow down.

If ever I had to pick a favorite brother, though, most likely Benjamin would’ve been it. Which isn’t saying much, except that he was the least of my troubles. He and that softhearted way he has about him sometimes.

Take last Sunday, for instance—the way he sat looking so forlorn at dinner after the Preaching, when Bishop Beiler and all five of his children came over to eat with us. The bishop had announced our upcoming wedding—his and mine—that day right after service. So now we were officially published. Our courting secret was out, and the People could start spreading the news in our church district, the way things had been done for three hundred years.

The rumors about all the celery Mamma and I had planted last May would stop. I’d be marrying John Beiler on Thursday, November twenty-first, and become stepmother to his five young children. And, jah, we’d have hundreds of celery sticks at my wedding feast—enough for two-hundred-some guests.

Days after the wedding was announced, Benjamin put on his softer face. Today, he’d even helped hoist me up to the attic to look for Mam’s wedding dress, which I just had to see for myself before I finished stitching up my own. Ben stayed there, hovering over me like I was a little child, while I pulled the long dress out of the big black trunk. Deep blue, with a white apron and cape for purity, the dress was as pretty as an Amish wedding dress could be.

Without warning, Ben’s words came at me—tumbled right out into the musty, cold air. “Didja ever think twice about marrying a widower with a ready-made family?”

I stared at him. “Well, Benjamin Lapp, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

He nodded his head in short little jerks. “It’s because of Daniel Fisher, ain’t?” His voice grew softer. “Because Daniel went and got himself drowned.”

The way he said it—gentle-like—made me want to cry. Maybe he was right. Maybe I was marrying John because Dan Fisher was dead—because there could never be another love for me like Dan. Still, I was stunned that Ben had brought it up.

Here was the brother who’d sat behind me in school, yanking my hair every chance he got, making me clean out the barn more times than I could count . . . and siding against me the night Dat caught me playing Daniel’s old guitar in the haymow.

But now Ben’s eyes were full of questions. He was worrying out loud about my future happiness, of all things.

I reached up and touched his ruddy face. “You don’t have to worry, brother,” I whispered. “Not one little bit.”

"Katie . . . for certain?” His voice echoed in the stillness.

I turned away and reached into the trunk, avoiding his gaze. “John’s a gut man,” I said firmly. “He’ll make a right fine husband.”

I felt Ben’s eyes boring a hole into the back of my head, and for a long, awkward moment he was silent. Then he replied, “Jah, right fine he’ll be.”

The subject was dropped. My brother and everyone else would just have to keep their thoughts to themselves about me and the forty-year-old man I was soon to marry. I knew well and good that John Beiler had one important thing on his mind: He needed a mamma for his children. And I, having been blessed with lavish mother-love, was just the person to give it.

Respect for a husband, after all, was honorable. In time, perhaps something more would come of our union—John’s and mine. Perhaps even . . . love.

I could only hope and pray that my Dan had gone to his eternal reward, and that someday I’d be found worthy to join him there.


Excerpt from The Mercy

Mercy book, third and final of the three part Rose Trilogy published by Bethany House

The Mercy

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