Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Amish Bride

Mindy Starns Clark
And Leslie Gould
A beautiful coming-of-age tale about the headstrong Mennonite-raised Ella Bayer
and the handsome young Amish man she thought she would love forever.
"TOP PICK! This wonderful Women of Lancaster County novel gives outsiders a glimpse at what life is like for Amish and Mennonite young people. There are twists and turns and even a mysterious journal that will keep readers interested. The characters are well rounded and well thought out by two amazing authors."
--RT Book Reviews Magazine
Chapter One
My grandmother was stalling like a little kid at bedtime. I bent down to kiss her a second time. "Mammi, I really need to go. Ezra's waiting for me." He was at the end of the lane on his motorcycle.
"But I have something for you." She forced her recliner down and struggled to a standing position. "It's important."
Afraid she might fall, I hurried to her side. "Tell me where it is," I said. "I'll get it myself."
She plopped back down into her chair. "Let me see…it's a book…"
Oh, boy. This wasn't a good time from Mammi to start on a new topic. I sent Ezra a quick text as she spoke, telling him to give me another minute, knowing it was bound to be even longer than that.
"I think it's in my room," she said. "On the dresser. Or maybe the nightstand."
"I'm on it." I hurried down the narrow hall, darting into her bedroom. It was tidy as a pin, and the dresser was bare except for Mammi's hairbrush. On the nightstand was her Bible and another leather-bound book. At first I thought it was a second Bible, it was that big and thick. But when I picked it up, I noted there was nothing written on the front. I opened the worn cover. On the first page was the name "Sarah Gingrich." If I was recalling my family history correctly, that was the name of Mammi's mother.
I carefully flipped through the book as I moved back up the hall, intrigued by the quirky things I saw inside. It held a mix of drawings both large and small, recipes, an occasional journal entry, and other miscellaneous writings, many of the entries bearing dates that spanned decades in total.
The whole book was offbeat, but some of the pages were especially so. They held an odd mix of numbers and letters—or at least I thought they were letters at first glance. Pausing in the hallway to take a closer look, I realized they weren't letters at all but instead some sort of intricate, squiggly lines. Bizarre.
"Mammi, this is so cool," I said as I closed the book and entered the living room. "Did this belong to my great-grandmother?"
"Yes, and I want you to have it."
"Seriously? Wow. Thanks, Mammi." I held the book against my chest. "I can't wait to read it."
My phone beeped. Ezra! I'd forgotten all about him. Trying not to feel guilty, I told Mammi I was sorry but I really had to go.
She nodded. "Next time you're over, I'll tell you more about my mother. She was quite the…oh, how would you say it?" She was quiet for a moment then her faded blue eyes lit up. "Free spirit."
"Free spirit," I echoed, looking at her. My time there was up, but I made no move to go as she continued.
"She was stubborn and feisty too. Sound familiar?" Her eyebrows raised, but when I chose to ignore her implication, she added, "Just like you."
"I'm not sure that's a compliment."
"Oh, it is. You're also smart like she was, and oh, so pretty. You have her thick hair and lovely skin. You're even gifted creatively. Mostly, though, you have her spunk."
I wasn't used to receiving compliments from family members and felt too awkward to respond.
Mammi didn't seem to notice, though. Instead, her eyes moved back to the book in my hands. Gazing at it, her face began to cloud over, and I could see she was troubled. "There's another thing, about the book," she said. "Just between us. Something unique about it that you have to understand. And there's something important I need you to do for me."
Curious, I lowered myself to the chair on her left and waited for her to elaborate. She gestured, so I opened up the book, angled it so that she could see the pages, and began flipping through.
"All of those tiny drawings at the tops and bottoms…" Her voice trailed off.
"These nifty little doodles?" Glancing down, I tilted the heavy tome my way. "It's funny, but they kind of remind me of icons. You know, like for a phone app?"
She stared at me blankly. Of course she didn't know what a phone app was.
"They're symbols," she said. "Each one represents something."
I flipped through more pages and saw that the various icons weren't just random—they were repeated the exact same way in different places. She was right. Symbols.
"What are they for?"
"I'm not sure. But there's more."
She again gestured with her hand, so I tilted the book back toward her and continued flipping until she placed a pointed finger on the page to stop me.
Glancing down, I saw that she was indicating one of the pages of weird squiggly lines. They reminded me of letters or numbers but were unreadable, like a foreign language that used a completely different alphabet.
"What is this?"
She sat back and clasped her hands in her lap. "It's a code. My mother didn't want just anyone reading her journal. So she invented a code to keep parts of it private."
"Cool." I was really starting to like my great-grandmother Sarah.
I was studying the squiggles more closely when I realized Mammi was leaning toward me in her chair, her expression intense.
"Ella, I need you to decipher that code. Figure out how to make sense of it. The symbols too. I want you to translate the code and the symbols into words. I need to know what it says."
My first reaction was to giggle, but her face was so serious I held it in. What was this, James Bond or something?
"I'm not exactly good at this sort of thing. I mean, Zed's way smarter than I am. Why don't you ask him?"
Mammi placed a hand on my arm and gave it a firm squeeze. "Never mind him. I'm asking you, Ella. You can do this. You have to do this."
"But why?" I looked into her eyes and was surprised to see pain there. Deep pain. "What is it, Mammi? Why is this so important to you?"
Without responding, she broke our gaze, released my arm, and let herself fall back against the chair. Eyes brimming with sadness, she turned her face away and spoke in a soft voice. "Just let me know when you figure it out, will you? It's important to me." Clearly, she wasn't going to elaborate.
I sat there for a long moment, resisting the urge to insist she explain. It was no big surprise that she wouldn't tell me, nor that she'd asked me not to tell anyone else. Our family was known for its secrets. I hadn't imagined there were any left, but it looked as though I was wrong.
"I…I'll give it a shot, Mammi, but I'm not making any promises."
She nodded. "If it would help, maybe you could even go visit the Home Place. It's still in the family, you know. One of your distant cousins lives there now, and I'm sure she'd be happy for you to come out."
Visit the Home Place? In Indiana? It was a neat idea, but there was no way I could take a trip like that any time soon. There were other things in my life that were much more pressing.
"My mother grew up there, you know," she said dreamily, not catching the reluctance in my expression. "You'll see she drew it in the book a lot. Sometimes the whole farm, sometimes just a particular tree or piece of furniture or view from a certain window. I don't know the significance of those drawings, but they are obviously tied in with the symbols and the code somehow. Maybe if you went there yourself, it would be easier to figure it all out."
I looked down at the book in my hands, feeling the weight of my grandmother's request—and her memories—pressing down on me.
"Let's take this one step at a time, okay? I'll see what I can do here first. You never know. I might just crack this baby wide open without having to go anywhere at all."
Mammi's eyes met mine. "Thank you, Ella" she whispered.
"No problem."
My cell phone buzzed yet again. Poor Ezra had to be going stir-crazy by now. I closed the book and carefully squeezed it into my backpack for safekeeping. Then I stood and gave Mammi a quick kiss on the cheek. As I turned to go, she wrapped a cold hand around my wrist. I paused and looked down at her.
"Do whatever it takes, Ella," she said, her voice tinged with desperation. "I'm an old woman, and the Lord has numbered my days, but before I go to my grave, I simply have to know what my mother wrote in that book."
Mindy Starns Clark is the #1 bestselling author of twenty books, fiction and nonfiction, including Whispers of the Bayou, Beauty to Die For, and the ever-popular nonfiction guide The House that Cleans Itself. She and her husband John live with their two daughters near Valley Forge, PA. Visit her website at
Leslie Gould is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, including Beyond the Blue, winner of RT Book Club Magazine's Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Inspirational Novel. Leslie received her master of fine arts in creative writing from Portland State University in 2009 and has taught fiction as an adjunct professor at Multnomah University. She, her husband, Peter, and their four children live in Portland, Oregon. Visit her website at
Books in the Women of Lancaster County Series include:
The Amish Midwife, winner of the Christy Award for Best Contemporary Novel in a Series
The Amish Nanny
The Amish Bride
The Amish Seamstress, to be released in 2013
The Amish Bride is available wherever books are sold, including,, and
Copyright ©2012 by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould


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