Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review: "The Caregiver" by Shelley Shepard Gray

Summary from BN.com: Lucy is traveling by herself via train to Jacob's Crossing to help care for her cousin Mattie, recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Trying to overcome the sudden death of her husband, she's glad to get away and focus on someone else for a while.

The only other Amish people on the train are Calvin Weaver and his little sister, Katie. When their train breaks down outside of Cleveland, Calvin and Lucy band together to face the outside world. But Calvin also carries the weight of past hurts. When an altercation brings both their wounds to light, they question whether they can trust each other.

Once in Jacob's Crossing, Lucy is occupied with caring for Mattie, while Calvin does his best to run his family's farm. But they can't stop thinking about those special hours spent together. Will the bond they formed last? And will Lucy and Calvin be able to put away the pain in their pasts to recognize the happiness that is suddenly in their grasp?

As I've said in the past, Shelley Shepard Gray's Amish stories are the best ones that I've seen out there. No idealized life, very few English turns to Amish just for love and just stories about the culture and the lifestyle. This book is no different and even breaks ground with the subject matters brought forth in the book. This is the first book dealing with the Amish that I have read that deals with cancer and domestic violence IN the Amish. Both subjects seem to be taboo among other authors and I'm glad that Gray brings them into light with this book.

Lucy is the victim of an abusive husband. What makes her situation unique is that both she and her husband are Amish. I find this groundbreaking because other books dealing with the Amish tend to make their entire lifestyle to seem so peaceful and full of tranquility and that nothing from the outside world taints their community. However Gray clearly shows that the Amish are not immune from this type of behavior and Lucy's husband was just as terrible as abusive husbands from the outside world. What probably made it even more worse for her is that there was absolutely no one she could tell this to and to get any sort of help would have been really frowned upon. I ache that she had to go through all of it alone and the emotional and physical scars that it left on her.

At first I got annoyed with Lucy for making such a harsh judgment about Calvin after one single incident. Her complete 180 attitude and not even bothering to try to listen to his reason for why he did what he did got on my nerves. Then I realized that she is coming from an abusive relationship. She is wary of any sort of hints of abuse in a person's character because she fears it. I immediately changed my mind about her and began to empathize with her.

Cancer is another topic I hadn't seen mentioned in this book. Again it shows that even the Amish are not immune to the diseases that ravage the rest of the world. Mattie is very young to deal with breast cancer and it's painful to watch her have to suffer with it. Even though her faith is quite strong, there are days where she's angry and sullen which is completely normal and I am glad that Gray portrayed her in that light.

With all the heavy talk, there is still a nice romance thrown in as well. I really liked seeing Lucy and Calvin's relationship grown throughout the story. It's well done because the relationship feels to grow at a natural speed. I also really loved how much the Amish love Wal-mart. It's totally awesome to see them visiting the store and being quite comfortable with it. This is another winner from Gray and I can't wait for the next book in the series.

The Caregiver by Shelley Shepard Gray is published by Avon Inspire (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

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