Page 140, that is where this book came alive for me. Prior to that point, it was a pleasant read, but not compelling in any way. From that point, and through the remaining 242 pages, I could not put the book down. I am so glad that I had agreed to review the novel, otherwise I may not have continued reading, and I truly would have missed out.
While I have read a number of Amish fiction novels, this is the first Shaker novel I have read. I will be looking for other Shaker novels by Gabhart. I know that there are at least five more from which to choose. While I have visited the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Danville, Kentucky several times, I learned a great deal more about the Shakers while reading The Innocent. I did do an internet search on some of the information included in the text, and found it to be accurate every time.
Carlyn Kearney, Gabhart’s main character, grew up under her pastor father’s legalistic thumb, cushioned only slightly by her mother’s teaching of God’s grace and love. After marrying Ambrose, Carlyn blossomed as she came to understand the joy of the Lord. That joy was difficult to sustain, however, due to Ambrose’s uncertain fate two years after the end of the Civil War. Being unable to support herself, let alone pay her debts, Carlyn seeks shelter and peace within the boundaries of the Shaker village of Harmony Hill. While thankful for food and shelter, Carlyn does not readily fit into the Shaker way of life. Sheriff Mitchell Brodie cannot deny his attraction to Carlyn, but respects her faithfulness to her husband even though the townsfolk assume that she is indeed a widow. He longs to insure her safety as every instinct within him is on alert to something being very wrong in the Shaker village. It is at that page 140 mark that Carlyn herself becomes aware of dangerous undercurrents among the sisters and brethren.
One thing I really appreciate about Christian fiction is the lessons that one can take away. I hope that in the darkest and most difficult times, the times when hope seems lost or when my body is exhausted, I will remember the echo of Carlyn’s mother’s admonishment to, “Pray anyway.” When looking for the answers I desire, the good I want to come, I hope I recall her saying, “Assuredly. God is love. But he sees the whole woven fabric of our lives and not simply the few threads we are trying to twine together at the moment. Good and bad weave into the pattern of our lives. Together they make us strong and able to endure whatever must be endured.” God equips us in many ways, some easier than others.
I recommend this book to those who have the time and patience to allow the author to develop her characters before increasing the tension that drives the reader forward. It is my belief that readers will find it worth the wait; I certainly did. I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing The Innocent for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.