A Merry Heart by Wanda E Brunstetter

a merry heartSynopsis: Miriam Stoltzfus was disappointed in love and vowed to never trust another man again, but that doesn’t stop two men from showing their interest in her. Amos Hilty has wanted to marry Miriam for years, but she thinks he only needs a stepmother for his daughter. Nick McCormick never thought to marry before meeting Miriam, but he is not Amish and therefore considered a bad match. Will Miriam ever be able to overcome her distrust of men? And if she does, who will she choose?

Cover: The art is in subdued colours, which fits the preferences of “plain and simple” as described in the book. The character on the cover is wearing a kapp, clearly indicating the book is about Amish people, and holds an apple that is a hint towards the main character’s profession.

Product: The book is the same width of a paperback, but nearly an inch taller. It took a little getting used to, but wasn’t at all awkward to hold.

Publisher: The book is released by Barbour Publishing Inc, a company located in Ohio. They produce over 150 Christian titles per year, both fiction and non-fiction.

Writing Style: The story is well written and easy to read, even when it comes to German phrases. There are a few words in that other language, but if the character speaking doesn’t translate it into English the person answering does.

Pacing: The story is set over approximately two years, a timeline that suits the plotline well. However, there are jumps over months and even the bypassing of seasons, which causes it to seem a bit disjointed.

Location: The book is set in Lancaster County, and in this case the book was also bought from there. If you’re in the area, you can find Amish people with the same last name as the main character.

Plot: One might think the main storyline is Miriam having to choose between Nick and Amos, but really it’s about Miriam’s relationship with God. The struggle Miriam has trying to choose between staying single or marrying, of choosing an Amish man or an outsider, just highlights struggle Miriam is having with her faith. Once she makes things right with God, she knows what the right path for her is.

Point of View: The story is told in third person, and is mostly told from Miriam’s perspective. To gain insight into Miriam and the other characters, there are also POVs from Amos, Nick, and Miriam’s mother.

Theme: The main thought throughout the story is summed up in the Bible verse that is often quoted. Proberbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Character Development: Miriam’s character is well developed. Thanks to flashbacks we understood the reason behind her bitterness, and Miriam’s snappish attitude is seen through present interactions. Over time, Miriam starts to act kinder and smile more, until she is able to trust again.

Relationship: There isn’t much by way of romance, not how it is seen in more contemporary novels, but rather the building of love and respect. That in itself is fitting for the situation, but there is a bit of inconsistency when it comes to Miriam’s relationships with Nick and Amos. The outsider proves himself to be untrustworthy in his deceptiveness, yet she easily forgives Nick every time. That is at odds with her claim to never trust men again, something that seems to only come into play in regards to Amos. Miriam’s narrow-minded assumptions cause her to overlook the fact Amos is trustworthy, something she suddenly overcomes in the end rather than gradually over time.

Quote: “Life goes on, whether our hearts are filled with bitterness or love. Each of us must make the choice. We either choose to love, or we choose to harbor bitter, angry feelings.”

The Verdict: The book was a gift and, although it wasn’t something I picked out, it sounded reasonably interesting. The story wasn’t life altering, attention grabbing, or tear inducing, but it was a fairly pleasurable read for a rainy day. Unless you do not have an open-mind to religions other than your own belief system (or lack of belief), it’s a book anyone can enjoy.