Forgiveness and Guilt, Love and Laughter
A Son’s Vow by Shelley Shepard Gray is a contemporary Amish novel and the first book in the Charmed Amish Life series. It is a study of a community dealing with loss and grief, hurt and anger. It shows how people react differently when it comes to grieving. Shelley Shepard Gray deals sensitively with the subject matter. She shows how individuals and a community can rebuild their lives and move forwards. The reader is introduced to the Amish way of life. God is very much at the heart. Even if it feels like God has abandoned the people, He is still there.
Shelley Shepard Gray shows how some people are so hurt from the devastating fire in the mill, three months prior to the novel opening, that they have to play the blame game. Mary who lost her son in the fire blames Darla’s father, who also lost his life. Mary transfers the blame to Darla, berating her at every opportunity but “no-one can take on the sins of the fathers.”
The hurt, anger and blame game continues in Aaron, Darla’s brother, who blames Lukas and Levi’s father, the mill owner who also perished. Aaron is a changed man, so consumed by his anger that even his family is afraid of him. He needs help but cannot see it. He holds on to the fire and the deaths of the men and also feels guilty. He fears moving on because then he fears that the deaths did not matter. As the reader I could empathise as following our loved ones deaths, it often feels like a betrayal when one begins to laugh again.
The theme of guilt ties in to the theme of forgiveness. Many characters struggle with forgiveness in the novel. Levi is hurting and blaming Darla’s father. He cannot move on. He was there as the mill exploded but could not save the men. He feels guilty. One of the reasons that he holds onto unforgiveness is because if he forgave others then he would also have to forgive himself.
Lukas is in charge of the mill now. The fire put a strain on his childhood friendship with Darla. He needs to deal with the past because the future is calling.
Shelley Shepard Gray presents a wonderful study of these characters and many more within the novel. The reader feels the sense of community with the Amish. It is a hurting community but it is one that wants to pull together and not be fractured. There is a huge sense of belonging within the novel.
Hannah lost her boyfriend Paul in the fire. She grieved but then wants to move on. She has a job as a nanny to an Englischer couple. Shelley Shepard Gray demonstrates how the Amish and Englisch communities exist side by side. It is wonderful to watch the interchanges.
I always enjoy novels by Shelley Shepard Gray and am looking forward to reading the subsequent books in the series.
I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. No monetary compensation was received and all views expressed are my own.