Fraying at the Edge
By Cindy Woodsmall
Published by Waterbrook
352 Pages

ABOUT BOOK: Family, community, faith, and love.
These “quilt blocks” sewn together made Ariana’s beautiful life. When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?

The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can help steady Ariana’s tilting ground between the two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?

At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life—no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family.

New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they find the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?

Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

REVIEW: This story reminds me of the authors’ first series titled Sisters of the Quilt. The thing I loved about the stories was the fact it took place mostly outside the Amish community. While reading that first novel, When the Heart Cries; I learned to expect the unexpected from this author. I loved that. The same holds true with The Amish of Summer Grove series. The story and characters have grabbed my heart and never let it go.

This is not your typical Amish tale. Far from it. If you didn’t read book one in this new series you will be brought up to speed by the author in the sequel, BUT you will have missed the richness of this story and the depths these families have been through and still agonize over their circumstances in Fraying at the Edge.

This author has a wonderful writing talent that quickly pulls readers into her books hook, line and sinker. In book one Ties that Bind, Skylar and Ariana discover at age 20, that they were switched at birth. Each family wants the chance to get to know their biological child. Nicholas (Ariana’s biological father) has threatened the Amish community with a huge lawsuit (and/or jail time for the nurse in charge) if they don’t comply with his demands. So Ariana goes off with her Englisch family and Skylar has the choice to submit to an inpatient rehab center OR to go to the Amish community in order to know her biological Mom and Dad. She chooses the Amish family. The author placed the reader inside the main characters shoes and had them looking at the world through their eyes. It was moving as both girls’ worlds are turned upside down and are plunged into a surreal one year experience.

Here’s a peek at the girls first impression of their new life. “Skylar had a lot to adjust to – new family, Amish rules by the silo full, no modern conveniences, and the frustration of living in a poor home. Every time she turned around, another pipe had broken, which meant someone had to haul water into the house so she could brush her teeth. …Who lived like this – no electric lights, washing clothes by hand even when the water worked…the hardest part of this ordeal thus far was the lack of drugs…All she could think about was a couple of tablets of Xanax, Ativan, or Valium. Anything to stop the incessant restless legs.”

Ariana was having a different kind of challenge. Who knew that making breakfast for her new family would cause so much chaos? Her biological mother’s husband Gabe looked at Ariana. He told the person on the phone to hold a minute. “He lowered the phone to his chest, “It’s the security system people. They said the emergency button inside the house was pushed. Is everything okay?”

“I..I guess,” Ariana shrugged. “As far as I know I was trying to turn on the stove.”

“The stove?” Gabe repeated.

“Dad ----Cameron rolled her eyes –“tell the guy all our secret code stuff, convince him the house hasn’t been invaded by body snatchers, and let him get back to the people who aren’t trying to figure out how to use electricity.”…”It’s a whole new world for you, isn’t it Princess Jasmine?”

“That’s enough Cameron.”

“What?”…You don’t think I’m being nice either, Dad? Ariana and Toto aren’t in Kansas anymore! Is anyone in this house surprised by that?”

“I am, Ariana’s words were a growl…. I’m totally surprised by it. Shocked. Miserable. But it’s just funny to you, isn’t it?...Tell you what. You learn Gabe isn’t your Dad at all, and trade him for someone as difficult as Nicholas. You give up your comfortable life and put yourself, by yourself, in, I don’t know, maybe the Middle East, where the culture is totally disrespectful of you and all you’ve been taught to believe. Then we’ll talk about how nice you’ve been okay?”

Does that make you want to read more? Can you feel both girls’ anxiety, pain, loneness, despair? I like how one of Quill’s siblings explained the experience both girls were having. “You’re in a room of people who, in one way or another, had a high-magnitude earthquake hit their lives, Ariana…Quill had it the worst!”

This is why Quill was so helpful to Ariana. He was great at helping her navigate this strange new World.

Another aspect of this novel I loved is how naturally the spiritual thread is woven into this story. Just when the reader is totally invested in the novel and on the edge of their seat wondering what will happen next; I was stirred in my spirit and my heart by something I was dealing with and/or had dealt with in my own faith journey. That’s another thing I love about this authors novels. I can expected the holy spirit to working in my heart. That’s also unexpected on many levels and one of the main reasons I read Christian Fiction.

Quill teaches Ariana to listen to that still small voice inside of her. He says, “Never discount anything your senses are telling you, not at first. Let the information sink in, and trust your ability to reason out the truth. If you’re wrong, that will become evident soon enough. Usually when one part of us is telling another part of us what’s going on, it’s a gift from God. Use it. …Quill continues, “You know what you need? His eyes reflected hope. “You need a new view of the Heavens.”

“Of the Heavens?”

“Ari, our God is so much bigger than we can grasp. As children we saw him as if we were inside a snow globe and he was just outside it, on his throne out of sight, looking down at us. For those of us raised to believe in a jealous, angry God, we see him with a frown, scowling. And as all Amish know, being frowned on is one tiny step from being shunned.”

Ariana says when asked about life outside the Amish community, “The Englisch world was a mixture of fascinating beauty and deviant horror.”

This author brilliantly pens an engaging, heart-felt story where I instantly cared about these young ladies and their struggle. The other thing I adore about this novel is the well-tied humor. This novel spoke volumes to me as I read how everything these girls believed about live and themselves was being tested. They had to start picking up the pieces, of their shattered lives and discover who they really were and how God fit into all of this?

Fraying at the Edge would make a wonderful book club pick. I am a huge Cindy Woodsmall fan. I think this novel is her best yet. It’s a keeper and a must read novel.
Gail & others enjoyed meeting Cindy at Book club. She's a special lady!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher through the Blogging for books site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

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