Friday, February 24, 2017

The Sisters of Sugarcreek by Cathy Liggett, 2017

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Many lives were changed the day a fire burned down Faith Community Church, devastating the small town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.Now a young Amish widow, Lydia Gruber faces an uncertain future. Her husband, a craftsman and volunteer firefighter, always took care of everything, keeping her isolated from others in their community. Without anyone or any skills, how will she survive?With the death of her beloved aunt Rose in the fire, single mom Jessica Holtz inherits Rose's Knit One Quilt Too cottage. Though determined to keep the shop open in her aunt's memory, she doesn't know the first thing about knitting and quilting and begins to see her aunt's dream slip through her fingers.When Liz Cannon lost her dear friend Rose, she also lost her partner in the Secret Stitches Society--the name they gave themselves while delivering gifts of hope to troubled folks in the dark of night. Liz convinces Jessica to keep the anonymous society going, despite the younger women's inadequacy with knitting and sewing needles. But soon Liz has problems of her own as the life she has rebuilt for herself begins to crumble again.When Liz and Jessica choose Lydia for their first mission, the three women cross paths and form an unlikely friendship in the aftermath of tragedy. As they walk together through triumph and heartbreak--through grief and new chances at love--they begin to discover that with friends by your side, a stitch of hope can be found anywhere.
(388 pages)

This was just the sort of book I needed: fluffy yet meaningful, silly yet sweet, and full of drama that took me away from the drama in my own life.

This is a very . . . busy book. There are three main characters, all of whom have their own lives to live and storylines unique from each other. They're all brought together, in a roundabout way, by a church fire from before the start of the book that stole huge chunks of each of their lives: Lydia's husband, Jess' aunt who raised her, and Liz's church community. It was very interesting to watch them all pick up the pieces, struggling in different ways as they each began to heal and move forward from the tragedy.

But to be honest, I wish the focus had stayed on grieving and moving on and all that sort of stuff. As it went along, other storylines began to be thrown in that I didn't find nearly as interesting. Each woman gets a love interest of sorts, and of varying seriousness. I thought Lydia's potential connection with her neighbor, a very nice single man, was nice. It's not given much attention, and for good reason–she's still processing through her husband's death from the fire. I appreciated that a door was opened for her in the future, but that things were pushed so quickly that Lydia would have seemed callous about her first husband. As for Jess, hers was definitely my second favorite of the three romantic storylines. I liked Derek, Jess's childhood best friend who moves back to Sugarcreek and wants to strike up the same easy friendship they used to have. The cynical side of me thinks that he's a little too perfect, and that Jess sure gets flushed and self-conscious an awful lot around him for an old childhood friendship, and that if they were really so perfect for each other they would have figured this out long before they got to their mid-thirties. But, hey, why be critical when you can enjoy yourself instead? If I let myself ignore those things, then I can see Jess and Derek's rekindled relationship for what it is: a sweet love story about childhood best friends who were always meant for each other.

As for the third romantic storyline, I have to say that I didn't much like Liz's. Her love interest, Daniel, is just as pseudo-perfect as Derek but doesn't have a sweet backstory to excuse away that fact. He's the repairman who agrees to fix Liz's kitchen ceiling (because apparently this woman is so helpless without a man in her life that she didn't notice the ceiling was literally about to collapse? Huh?). They strike up a friendship, pour their hearts out to each other over plaster of paris, and proceed to go through a dramatic series of "will they or won't they" that was too much for my stomach. I wound up flipping through a lot of their scenes, because they just felt forced and didn't interest me the way the rest of the book did.

Oh, and I can't discuss this much but the book also includes some interesting themes about both gender roles in marriage and childhood sexual assault. I'm not sure that I exactly agree with how the former was addressed, but I thought the latter was handled very delicately.

Anyway, this is getting rather long so I'll wrap it up. If you're interested, the publisher also sent me the link to some goodies related to the book that you can check out. Here they are:

· Random Acts of Kindness Cards
· Amish Friendship Bread Recipe
· Lemon Bars Recipe
· Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
· White Chocolate Chex Crunch Recipe
· Blank Recipe Card
· Blog Post

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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