Wednesday, January 26, 2011

‘The Search’ by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Book Review

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In my excursion into the world of book reviews, one of my favorite discoveries is the books by the lovely Suzanne Woods Fisher, whose writings give us a glimpse into the culture of the Amish. I just had the good fortune to read the third book in her ‘Lancaster County Secrets’ series, ‘The Search.’

Here is the synopsis of this book:

When worlds collide, can the truth set two women free? As a child caught up in a crisis, Lainey O’Toole made a split-second decision with far-reaching effects. Fifteen years later, when her car breaks down in Stoney Ridge – the very town in which that decision was made – she is forced to face the past and discover how her decision has impacted so many.
Bess Riehl is less than thrilled to be spending the summer at Rose Hill Farm helping her intimidating grandmother Bertha recover from surgery. It doesn’t take long for Bess to realize that her grandmother coaxed her to Stoney Ridge for an entirely different reason. But once Bess meets hired hand Billy Lapp, the summer starts to hold some promise.
Lainey’s and Bess’s worlds are about to collide, and the secrets that come to light will shock them both.
Beautifully written, The Search is a skillfully woven story that takes you through unexpected twists and turns on the long country road toward truth. Immerse yourself in this heartwarming – and surprising – tale of young love, forgiveness, and healing.

Here is the biography of this author:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice and The Waiting, the first two books in the Lancaster County Secrets series. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
Suzanne is also the author of Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World, a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year award, and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life. She is the host of Amish Wisdom, a weekly radio program on She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay area and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Here is the very well done book trailer for this amazing book:

And here is an excerpt from the Oasis Audiobook:

There are several storylines happening at the same time – the evolution of Lainey O’Toole moving from one lifestyle to another, the maturation of Bess Riehl, and many other relationships that are developing. In addition, all of the characters are fully formed. Here is an exchange between Bess’s grandmother, Bertha, and Billy Lapp, who is employed by her to help out at Rose Hill Farm; it is a fine example of Suzanne’s comedic touch and attention to detail:

Bertha was always threatening Otto [a fourteen-year-old leghorn rooster] was going to end up as Sunday’s stew, but Billy knew better. Bertha Riehl was all bluff and bluster. Well, mostly bluff and bluster. He couldn’t deny she had a way of intimidating folks that was a wonder to behold. It had happened to Billy only once, when he made the mistake of asking her if she was six feet tall. Bertha planted her fists on her deluxe-sized hips and narrowed her eyes at him. “I am five feet twelve inches.” Then she stared him down until he was sure he had shrunk an inch or two, right in front of her. (p. 11)

Bess’s first encounter with Bertha – whom she called Mammi – also gave us a great picture of both ladies:

Mammi didn’t offer up another word. She ate with the fork in one hand, the knife in the other, polished off her two cherry tarts and then eyed Bess’s. Bess quickly stuffed it into her mouth. It was the finest cherry tart she had ever tasted, with a crumbly crust and cherries that were sugared just right and still tart. Soon, Mammi was ready to go, and she looked at Bess pointedly. Bess guessed that when Mammi was ready, she’d better be.
That was another odd thing about Mammi – as big as she was, she could move like greased lightning. In a twinkling, she was at the door, pointing at Lainey. “Sunday noon, then.” It was a statement, not a question.
The bakery lady looked a little pale but gave a nod. (p. 19)

Bess’s first impression of Billy is also sweet:

Billy Lapp looked to be about seventeen or eighteen years old. Man-sized. When he stood and his eyes met hers, Bess felt her heart give a simple thump. Clearly Amish by his clothes and haircut, he was tall, broad-shouldered, with curly brown hair and roguish eyes rimmed with dark eyebrows. Hands down, he was the best-looking boy Bess had ever laid eyes on. Her heart was beating so strangely now, she thought she might fall down and faint.
Things were looking up. (p. 25)

Bess was well aware that her father, Jonah, was a highly sought-after bachelor:

          Mammi raised an eyebrow. “Our Jonah is a catch.”
Bess knew that. Her dad was a fine-looking man. Even her friends said so. And he was young, only thirty-five. He was well thought of in their community, by men and women alike, and nearly every single female in their district – plus two neighboring districts – had set their cap for him. Cookies and pies, invitations to dinner and picnics, one father even boldly hinted to Jonah that his dairy farm would be passed down to his only daughter if Jonah married her. But Jonah never took the bait.
Until now. (p. 29)

I loved this paragraph further on in the book; I am hoping to remember its sentiment daily. The person in the scene is Billy:

He took a bite of Lainey’s blueberry peach pie, then another. It was delicious, that pie. It struck him that Bertha had done the same thing with her roses: took something old and made it new. Maybe that’s what life was all about – taking the lot you were given and making it better, he thought, finishing off the rest of that pie slab in two bites as he hurried down the street. (p. 234)

One of the characters who seemed closest to God is Lainey. Here she is explaining to Jonah how she could forgive Simon, who’d hurt her deeply as a child:

Lainey lifted her head to the sky. “For a long time, I felt abandoned. And so lonely. I still do, at times. I think it will always be my Achilles heel. But a few years ago, I went to a church service and the pastor happened to be preaching on the difference between divine forgiveness and human forgiveness. I knew I couldn’t forgive others without God’s help. He said that we fail in the work of grace and love when there is too much of us and not enough of God. That thought stayed with me. Too much of me and not enough of God. Once I understood that and asked for God’s help, I was able to forgive Simon and stop condemning him.” (p. 237)

 Bess also had a godly worldview; here is an observation she shared with Billy:

She turned her face to the sky, like a flower, and smiled softly. “Billy, isn’t it a wonder? That the crow is here? God made nature so things can get fixed again.” She turned to him. “Blue Lake Pond will have birds and fish again.”
He’d been so relieved that Bess was where he thought she’d be, he hadn’t even given the appearance of the crow a second thought. “Why, you’re right.” He scanned the lake and heard a woodpecker somewhere, hard at work, hammering a tree. He smiled.
“God does it with people too. Makes it so that they can find their way back to him.” She rested her chin on her knees. “You know what I love about looking up at the sky? It helps me to remember that I am so incredibly small and God is so immense.” She lifted her face to the sky. “Behind those clouds is an ocean of stars, limitless in its infinity, so large, so large, that any of our problems, even the greatest of them, is a small thing.” (p. 265)

This book has lots of wonderful surprises; I will not be revealing any here! You absolutely have to read this book!

I have had the joy and privilege of reading three books by Suzanne - Book One in the Lancaster County Secrets’ series, ‘The Choice’ (you can read my review here), Book Two, ‘The Waiting’ (you can read my review here) and ‘Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life’ (you can read that review here). As has been the case with every one of Suzanne’s books, I absolutely loved ‘The Search’! Suzanne is a masterful storyteller; she weaves stories in an incredible way. She writes with a sweet, gentle, and loving style. I am not one to watch a DVD over and over, or read a book more than once, but I want to return to Suzanne’s writing in the future.  It is a genuine pleasure to read her work, and I can’t wait to read whatever is next in her catalog!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I am happy to be participating in the blog tour for this book through the LitFuse Group along with these other bloggers.


Suzanne said...

Oh can I even begin to thank you for this lovely write up of "The Search?" It is just outstanding...your attention to detail, your thoughtful analysis, the paragraphs you pulled out as examples. I am so touched! Okay...definitely adding Toby's name into the mix for dog name suggestions. It's the VERY least I can do to say thank you! Warmly, Suzanne

Andrea Schultz said...

Suzanne -

You are right up there as one of the sweetest ladies on the planet! I REALLY should have made the trek down to Amish Country the other week!

It is truly my pleasure every time I have the honor of reading one of your books. Thanks for the kind words. It makes my efforts worthwhile!

That would mean a lot to know there's another Toby out there being a big help!

Blessings -


Lorri Jeanne said...

I loved your review!

Andrea Schultz said...

Thanks, Lorri! I hope you'll read ALL of Suzanne's books!

misskallie2000 said...

I love this book already. I have added to my wish list. Thanks for the great review Andrea.

Andrea Schultz said...

You're welcome, Miss Kallie! All of Suzanne's books are awesome! If you decide to order, I will love you even more if you order through one of my links! ; )

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