Gladden the Heart (Amish Turns of Time)
By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: July 2017
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
In the latest installment in the "Amish Turns of Time" series, author Olivia Newport tests her characters' faith and love of family.
The time is 1847 and the place is the Kishacoquillas Valley of Pennsylvania. The characters are the members of the local Amish church as well as people from the surrounding community who, while they might not be Amish, are friends and do care for each other. Susanna Hooley is a young Amish woman, devoted to God and her family. She is promised to Adam Yotter and they truly care about each other. Susanna is also good friends with Patsy Baxton, the daughter of Reverend Charles Baxton, a Methodist preacher. Susanna and Patsy have been friends since childhood, although they really don't understand the finer points of each others' religions. As the story opens, Patsy catches Susanna peeking through a tent at a Methodist church service run by a traveling preacher.
The story continues as various characters are introduced and the reader gets a feel for life within and around an Amish community in 1847. All seems quiet and well until the day that Susanna was having a casual conversation with Noah Kauffman - her mother's cousin's son - as the meal after the church service was ending. They were talking about Noah's desire, or lack thereof, of becoming a minister. As they talk, Noah's face suddenly turns white and his eyes roll back. Noah collapses in Susanna's arms and Adam, who isn't far off, notices something is wrong and comes running to her aid. Noah appears to fall into unconsciousness and Susanna goes rushing to find Noah's wife Phoebe. By the time they return, Noah is up and preaching up a storm, and definitely not preaching in the quiet, solemn ways of the Amish. A crowd soon gathers, curious about what is happening to a man who had never preached before. More than two hours later, Noah collapses and falls out of his trance.
Noah's trances and preaching continue in the ensuing days and the crowds slowly grow. And while the Amish way is to be quiet and not bring attention to oneself, Noah's loud and animated preaching while in these trances are more like the Methodist revival meetings Susanna has recently observed. Susanna wants to help Noah and believes that her cousin has no control over the trances, while Adam doesn't know what to believe. This difference of opinion causes stress in their relationship. Meanwhile, because Noah is unaware of his surroundings while in the trances, he one day wanders off and the whole community must come together to help him.
While I've read many Amish romances and inspirational books, this is the first in the "Amish Turns of Time" series that I've read. I was initially intrigued by the storyline, but I kept waiting for the story to get moving and the plot to engage me. While it was somewhat interesting, and I did enjoy the historical aspects, many segments dragged and I had trouble getting invested in Susanna's story. The romance between Susanna and Adam fell flat and while Noah's sudden preaching trances were of interest, it wasn't enough to carry the story.
Quill says: An interesting, but not a "must read," story of a "sleeping preacher" that never really takes off.