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ANNA'S CROSSING by SUZANNE WOODS FISHER REVIEWED

Anna’s Crossing
By Suzanne Woods Fisher
Published by Revell
ISBN#978-0-8007-2319-4
336 pages

Book cover: When Anna König first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naïve farmers--dubbed "Peculiars" by deckhands--across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna's serene nature. For her part, Anna can't seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship's carpenter, despite warnings.

When an act of sacrifice leaves Anna in a perilous situation, Bairn discovers he may not have left his faith as firmly in the past as he thought. But has the revelation come too late?

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that swept me into the middle of the seas and placed me on the Charming Nancy ship headed to America April 15th, 1737. The passengers were Mennonites fleeing Germany heading to a New World, with the promise of owning their own land and having the freedom to worship God as they pleased.

I discovered through the eyes of the main character Anna how hard it was to leave everything behind, put your faith in God and forge ahead into the unknown to then deal with the hardest part; never seeing her grandparents again.

Anna thought as tears filled her eyes, as she looked around one last time, “This little valley that hugged the Rhine River was supposed to be their home for good, for always. Here they had tried to live in peace, keeping to themselves in secluded hills and valleys where they could farm the land and their sheep could graze and they could go about their daily life of work and worship without worry or hassle.” All that changed in an instant. Her grandparents reminded her, “Everything changes. That’s the way of life.”

This brave young woman leaves at her grandparents’ insistence and embarks on a journey she’d rather not take. The sea voyage is brutal on so many levels; but especially difficult for the woman that was pregnant.  They all hoped that they’d make it to shore by the time the little one arrived. The Mennonites clung to their faith as they faced unforeseen trials. They encourage one another and the crew in small ways. They would make it with Gods help. No matter what things looked like.
I liked reading about this courageous bunch who risked everything they had for freedom to worship as they saw fit and for a chance at a new beginning for their families to own their own land.

I liked that this author included notes to the reader about facts she discovered in her research. She said, “I wanted to tell a story of what this 1737 crossing might have been like, to show the grit and determination – and heart - of these people. And God’s loving protection.”

I think this author accomplished that in Anna’s Crossing.  I felt for Anna as she journeyed into the uncharted waters. I also connected with Bairn the ships carpenter. Both had issues of the heart to contend with as they wrestled with surviving the dreadful storms at sea and those inside their hearts.

“After the initial shock of being at sea;….Anna started to realize that the Charming Nancy had a language of her own: constant talking murmuring, whispering. Soft, gentle, soothing sounds, unlike the harsh noises made up above by cursing seamen. Timbers groaned, bells rang, masts creaked, sails flapped, as if the ship was an enormous living creature. It was all an epiphany for Anna, to feel connected, protective even, of this aging old vessel that was doing her best to see the little church over the deep waters.”

As you've read above this author does a great job of bring the situation and characters to life, she puts readers on the ship heading to the new world battling nature and the unruly crew on board. There are 16 discussion questions in the back of the book that will help your book club dig deeper into the story. It will also help generate lively interaction as there is co much to talk about. I found this novel to be an enlightening, memorable read.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

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