You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
In book two of Amish fiction author Jerry S. Eicher’s new series, Katie Raber’s journey of discovery continues after her mamm’s marriage to Jesse Mast. Drawn back from the Mennonite world briefly by the miracle of Mamm’s changed heart, Katie finds she can’t totally abandon her new Mennonite friends.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Katie Raber awoke well before dawn in the stillness of the old Amish farmhouse. Something seemed wrong…unfamiliar. Where was she? The question raced through her mind. The familiar shape of her upstairs bedroom was gone. Where the dresser should have been there was a window, and where the dark outline of the dresser was there used to be a closet door. She sat up in bed, listening as a door banged downstairs. The sound was soon followed by the muffled voices of people stirring below. There was also a soft clatter of dishes being moved and Mamm’s voice being overlaid with the deeper tones of a man.
Katie lay back in bed and smiled. Of course! Mamm had married Jesse Mast last week. The wedding had been held at Bishop Jonas Miller’s place, with all the relatives and friends gathered for the great day. In the evening, the community youth had sung old hymns until after nine o’clock.
Today was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the whole family was together for the first time since the wedding. They had given Mamm and Jesse some time alone, including Thanksgiving Day. The newlyweds hadn’t gone off on some honeymoon like an En--glisha couple would, so they were entitled to extra consideration—what with children from both sides of the families joining the new union and with a farm to take care of. Katie had also taken the week off from work at Byler’s Store and had spent Thanksgiving Day with her Mennonite friend Margaret.
Mabel, Jesse’s oldest daughter, had thrown a royal fit about being bossed around by Mamm last night when they’d all arrived after supper. And all Mamm had said was “It’s time for bed, children.” But thankfully Mabel had eventually calmed down. She’d been a wild card ever since Mamm had accepted Jesse’s offer of marriage. At first Mabel had refused to even consider Mamm as her new mamm. It wasn’t until Mamm was well into her engagement with Jesse before the feelings between Mamm and Mabel thawed out even a little. And even then Mabel gave in only after her daett brought great pressure to bear on her.
Katie took several deep breaths. The feelings of hope and joy that had been rushing over her at the memory of Mamm and Jesse saying their vows were fast disappearing. She really had to stop letting thoughts of Mabel’s bad attitude affect her this way. After all, this should be a wunderbah new beginning for all of them. For one thing, she would no longer be known as odd widow Emma Raber’s daughter, the strange girl with a yet stranger mamm. The wedding would surely change all of that.
Certainly Jesse and Mamm were persuaded things would turn out well for all of them. The past was behind them. Even Mamm’s past that had caused her to be thought strange by the Amish community—all because of that crush she’d once had on Daniel Kauffman, the most popular boy around when she’d been a teenager. Mamm had held on to her foolish hope that Daniel would return her affections right up to the moment he said his vows with Miriam Esh. Mamm had dashed out of the services and drove her buggy right past the couple and the astonished eyes of the bishop himself. She’d never lived down that action or gotten over the bitterness of the memory of Daniel.
Mamm had frozen her heart. In fact, she’d married Ezra without expecting she would ever again feel love for a man. When her heart had opened to Ezra after their daughter’s birth, it was made all the worse when he’d died suddenly. His early death had driven Mamm back into her shell. That Jesse Mast had been able to break through was a miracle indeed.
Now the joy was coming back. Katie belonged in this family—Jesse’s five children and her. Yah, it was still a little unfamiliar, just like the room she hadn’t recognized this morning. But she was here, and she was part of this family now. True, it didn’t seem quite right that she should have this room that had been Mabel’s. But Jesse had insisted. Katie was the eldest, so she deserved her own room. Katie dared not look at Mabel when he’d made that announcement.
At the wedding, everything had seemed to fall into place. There had been great love flowing from everybody. Mamm’s brothers from Lancaster had all taken time to speak with their niece, and they wished her well in her new life. “You’re a Mast now,” they’d teased, even though she really wasn’t. She was still a Raber. Mamm marrying Jesse wouldn’t change that. Only her own marriage would change her name.
That thought turned her mind to the dashing Ben Stoll, the boy she had her heart set on. He hadn’t paid her any attention at the wedding. He’d taken Tina Hochstetler to the table at the evening hymn singing. Katie had been left with no choice but to sit with her young cousin James, who lived in Lancaster. At sixteen, he was too scared to take a strange girl to the table. She mustn’t think about Ben now, Katie told herself. There were other boys in the world besides him, even though her heart would never be quite convinced of that. Maybe she could get over her crush on him if she tried hard enough. Mamm had found love beyond Daniel Kauffman, had she not?
Right now what she could be thankful for was that all of Jesse’s children—except Mabel—had accepted Mamm and her with open arms. The change had been slow at times. Mabel hadn’t been the only one of Jesse’s children unwilling at first to accept the idea of a new mamm keeping house for them. But they had eventually come around. And Mabel had also—sort of—after she’d been told by her daett to straighten out her attitude and accept Emma as her mamm.
Well, even if Mabel made trouble for her, Katie was still much better off than she had been before. She now knew what it felt like to be included in the Amish community and spoken to as if she were a normal human being. Of course, it hadn’t been just the wedding that had accomplished that. It had really started when she accepted an invitation to a Mennonite youth gathering. There she’d become friends with girls like Margaret Kargel and Sharon Watson. Both girls had come to Mamm’s wedding at her special invitation. They were the only Mennonites there besides Esther Kuntz, who worked at Byler’s Store with Katie.
Neither Jesse nor Mamm had any Mennonites in their immediate family. All the brothers and sisters on both sides of their families were Amish. That had made Katie’s relationship with the Mennonite girls a troublesome matter for Mamm. Jesse too seemed a bit concerned about it, though not as great as Mamm.
She would continue to leave that matter in Da Hah’s hands, Katie decided. Much gut had come out of her friendships with Margaret and Sharon. And Da Hah had blessed them in spite of Mamm’s fears. How that all made sense, Katie still didn’t know. And she might never know. It was enough that both Mamm and she were finding their way out of a life lived alone with closed-off hearts.
Back in the “old” days, Mamm had forbidden Katie from participating in the usual rumspringa the rest of the Amish young people in the community took part in. But to Mamm, rumspringa was a mild offense compared to attending Mennonite youth gatherings. But Katie had continued to go to them. She sighed and threw off the bedcovers. She knew Jesse and Mamm wanted her to stop attending, but she would have to see. Da Hah had been with her so far, and she would keep believing He would be in the future. It was true that living with Jesse and his family was going to be a great joy in its own right. Jesse had told her before Mamm’s wedding, “I love you, Katie. Just as much as I love Mabel and Carolyn or any of my boys. You’ll be living at my house as my own daughter.”
She was so thankful for that, and she appreciated the man from the bottom of her heart. That wasn’t something a person just walked away from. She now had the chance to grow up for a few years with a daett who cared about her. There might now be less reason for her to attend the Mennonite youth gatherings, though she would always keep up her friendships with Margaret and Sharon.
Katie walked over to the unfamiliar dresser. She opened the top drawer and ran her hands around the front edge. She found the matches and lit the kerosene lamp. The flickering flame had just caught when Jesse hollered up the stairs, “Time to get up, boys!”
Katie smiled at the sound. Mamm sometimes yelled up the stairs at home, but she’d never heard a man yell the morning wake-up call. It sounded gut. She pulled on her work dress as footsteps rushed past her bedroom door. She finished putting in the last pin and took the lamp with her as she stepped into the hallway. The light played on the walls as she found her way downstairs. No one was in the living room, so Katie peeked into the kitchen. Mamm had her back turned toward her as she worked over the stove.
“You should have called for me,” Katie told her.
Mamm turned around with a smile on her face. “Gut morning, Katie.”
“Gut morning to you.” Katie set the lamp on the kitchen table. “May I help with breakfast?”
A look of uncertainty replaced Mamm’s smile. “Perhaps we’d better wait until Mabel comes down before we get too far along. I don’t want to take over her kitchen on the first morning she’s here. Not without talking with her about it first.”
Katie sat on a kitchen chair. This was an unexpected turn of events, although she really shouldn’t be surprised now that she thought about it. Mamm had always been in charge at home, but now she was in another person’s kitchen—Mabel’s kitchen. “But you’re Jesse’s wife,” Katie protested. Everything has changed, she wanted to add, but she didn’t. Mamm looked troubled enough without adding undue pressure, and obviously everything hadn’t changed yet. There still would be bumps in the road. She could handle it.
Mamm was trying to smile. “Yah, I know. It takes some getting used to.”
“You should call Mabel,” Katie said. “She shouldn’t sleep in on the first morning we’re all together.”
Mamm lifted her head from the stove, seeming to ponder the suggestion for a moment. Then she went to the bottom of the stairs.
Yell loudly! Katie wanted to say. Wake the girl up!
“Mabel!” Mamm called up the stairs, her voice gentle.
Long moments passed, and Mamm looked ready to call again when the sound of a door opening came from upstairs.
“What do you want?” Mabel’s voice sounded irritated.
“I need your help in the kitchen,” Mamm said.
The door closed upstairs without an answer.
Katie watched Mamm’s face as she turned back and went to the stove.
Mamm glanced at Katie. “Perhaps you shouldn’t be in here when Mabel comes down.”
Katie looked away. Had she heard correctly? Mamm didn’t want her in the kitchen? Mamm must have seen the look on Katie’s face because she came over and gave Katie a quick hug. “It’s not what you think, Katie. I’m not rejecting you. It’s just that we must think about the larger picture right now. Mabel is used to running the household, and we need to give her an opportunity to adjust. It might be difficult enough for her with just me in here. And she might think ill of us if she finds you here too, both of us working in her kitchen. Especially because we didn’t take the time to call her before we started breakfast.”
Katie kept her eyes on the floor. What in the world was she supposed to do now? The pain was throbbing something awful in her heart. She’d never been told to leave the kitchen at home.
“Come on, Katie,” Mamm whispered. “We need to think about how Mabel will see things. If we’re both here, it will look like we’ve taken over.”
“Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do?” Katie got to her feet.
Mamm looked around but didn’t offer a suggestion.
“I’ll slip outside for a bit,” Katie finally said, opening the washroom door. Already she could hear Mabel’s quick footsteps coming down the stairs. Katie walked past the faint outline of the washbasin and towel in the darkness, and then she stepped outside. She stood on the porch with her arms folded and looked up at the splash of stars still visible in the heavens. Toward the east, dawn was breaking, the light still hidden in part by the corner of the house. In the other direction, the barn windows were lit with the glow of gas lanterns as Jesse and his boys worked on their chores. Katie looked at the soft light spreading across the dark lawn for a long time as tears stung her eyes.
Not that long ago she would have been out in the barn with Mamm doing the few chores they had at their place. Their two cows, Molly and Bossy, had been brought over and would be milked along with Jesse’s herd. She wouldn’t be going to the barn again for chores anytime soon. Jesse and his boys would take care of the farm jobs. So much had changed, Katie thought. And so quickly. She hugged herself tightly as she heard faint sounds of laughter coming from inside the house. That was Mamm’s voice laughing with Mabel. They were hitting it off big, apparently. Katie felt shut out. How could this be happening with all the hope that had filled her heart only moments ago? Surely Mamm hadn’t planned on sending her out of the kitchen on the first day they were all here after the wedding. Katie told herself she needed to think the best possible thoughts right now or she was going to burst into tears and totally embarrass herself when she did go back inside.
Was all this part of Da Hah’s way? No doubt He was continuing to lead her on paths she was unfamiliar with. Instead of being bitter, she should be thankful that Mamm was adjusting so well in her new role as Jesse’s wife and as mamm to his five children—especially Mabel. Wasn’t Mabel the hard case? Any progress in that area was all the more reason to give thanks. In the end, Katie decided, she would fit in somewhere. Mamm wouldn’t forget her own daughter.
One thing was for sure. Mamm and she would never slip back into what they used to be. That was in the past—and would remain so. No more feelings of being passed over by everyone or going unnoticed in Amish youth gatherings. Some of that would still happen, but she now had her wonderful memories of the evenings spent with the Mennonite youth to counter the aloneness. Margaret and Sharon had accepted her so quickly, and she’d met many others who were friendly too. Even the Mennonite boys who played beside her at the volleyball games—young men she’d never met before—had taken the time to say a few words of greeting and inquire how she was doing. They were all nice people who had welcomed her into their homes and hearts.
She had them to go back to in addition to whatever new blessings Da Hah had waiting for her with her new, expanded family. Mabel was the thorn with the rose, but Katie didn’t wish to destroy the flower because of the pain that stung her hand. Nee, she would not. She took deep breaths of the cool morning air and gathered her courage to return inside.