Tuesday, April 19, 2011

‘Beside Still Waters’ by Tricia Goyer – Book Review

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Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time knows that I love the Amish community! So when I learned that Tricia Goyer’s latest book, 'Beside Still Waters’ was a story about a young Amish woman, I knew I wanted to jump on the blog tour bus!

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Raised among the Amish of Indiana, 18 year-old Marianna Sommer plans to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and set up life in the only community she has ever known. But when her older brother chooses the world’s path following his rumschpringe, and a younger sibling begins showing interest in Englisch ways, Marianna’s parents move the family to Montana.
Although she is also in her rumschpringe years and not obligated to move, Marianna makes the journey to dutifully help her mother who is expecting another child. Surprisingly, from strangers on the cross-country train ride to the less rigid stance of the new Montana community, many Englisch influences awaken within Marianna – and ever her father – the desire to pursue a deeper kind of joy and love for God.
After an accident, Marianna tells her friend Ben a defining story about the Sommer family, and his response further illumines the active relationship God seeks with His followers. In due time, she learns the move from Indiana was not about losing anything, but finding out who God really is. Despite all the shake-ups, Marianna feels a sweet peace, like still waters, in her soul.  

Here is the biography of this author:

Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including ‘Songbird Under a German Moon’, ‘The Swiss Courier’, and the mommy memoir, ‘Blue Like Play Dough.’ She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

Here is the book trailer:

And here is Tricia talking about her book:

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is Marianna’s reaction to the ‘Englisch’ people that she encountered after the family’s move to Montana. Here is a conversation between Marianna and a woman she encountered on the train her family took from Indiana to Montana:

“Moving to Montana? Really? I thought the Amish stayed in the same community their whole lives.” One of the woman’s penciled eyebrows peaked into an arch. She was curious, but open about her thoughts. Marianna found her liking the woman.
“Most do. That was my plan, too. But Dat – oh, my father, had other ideas.”
“Well, it’s good to know that God will be with you wherever you go, don’t you think? It helps me to think about Him – to pray – whenever I’m scared and alone. And He’s never abandoned me. When I seek Him, when I make the time to be with Him, I’m never disappointed.”
Marianna couldn’t help but notice the joy that spilled out of the woman as she talked. She tucked her hair behind her ear and then looked to the kids again. “I have a few coloring books and some crayons if your sister would like them. I got them for my friends’ kids, but I can just pick up something else later.” (p. 95)

Marianna had been insulated from the outside world, and was under the impression (an impression that was encouraged by her family and the leaders of her church) that the Englisch were evil and/or outside of the will of God. However, this woman led her to a different conclusion:

For as long as Marianna could remember, prayers to God were said reverently, silently to one’s self. For some reason she couldn’t picture that woman sitting quietly at a table in prayer. She pictured loud, exuberant prayers. And for the first time that seemed okay. Maybe God understood the woman’s heart despite the way she lived within the world? Marianna hoped so.
Surely someone so kind was worthy of God’s attention too. (p. 97)

I have been to Montana once before, many years ago. This book reminded me how beautiful that state is. Tricia’s description of the state makes me want to go visit again, this time with my husband, Fred. Here is Marianna’s impression of the state when they first arrive:

She rubbed her eyes and sat up, seeing a different world outside the window than the place they left yesterday. Pine trees clung to rocky cliff faces, and a river – not like the creek back home, but a real river – roared at the base of the canyon. The color of the water was bluish-green, like the turquoise necklace the clerk in the general store had worn, one Marianna had always admired. White foam danced on top of the river, reflecting in the morning light.
She cocked her head as she gazed out the window, lifting her eyes to the sky, but the hills rose and then turned into mountains. The sky was a sliver of blue off in the distance. Even though the view was breathtaking, her heart felt a slight pinch realizing her prairie lay far behind. (pp. 104-105)

I loved the device that Mrs. Goyer used to help us learn more about Marianna, and that was her letters to the ‘Junie-Sevenies,’ other young women whose birthday was also on June 7. It gives us a great glimpse into her heart and her life.   

I also loved how a young man that the Sommer family met, Benjamin, exhibited a life which was transformed by God’s love and forgiveness; he was happy to pass along his story to anyone who would listen. He also loved to praise the Lord with music by singing and playing his guitar. This was also a revelation to Marianna, who had been taught that instruments were forbidden. She only later learned that people in the Bible (King David foremost among them) played instruments in praise to God. I loved the freedom in Christ that became evident more and more as she saw God’s love outside of her small circle.

I have only read one other book by Tricia – ‘All Things Hidden’ (you can read my review here). Being that I am an Amish admirer from way back, I did enjoy this book better. This is the first in a three-part 'Big Sky' series. The second book in the series, ‘Along Wooded Paths,’ will be released in October, 2011. I look forward to the continuing journey – both spiritual and territorial – of Marianna Sommer and her family and friends.

You can order this book here.

The Advanced Reader Edition of this book was provided by B&H Fiction for review purposes. The page numbers in the quotations included here may not match those of the final publication, which is now available. I am pleased to be on the book’s blog tour through the LitFuse Publicity Group with these other bloggers.

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