WHEN THE MORNING COMES, book two in Cindy Woodsmall’s Sisters of the Quilt series, picks up where WHEN THE HEART CRIES ended and offers the same intriguing blend of Amish-themed romance and misfortunes.
This is not a stand-alone novel, so you’ll want to read the series in order. A cast of characters included is helpful in picking up the storyline. In WHEN THE HEART CRIES, we met Hannah Lapp, the 17-year-old daughter of an Old Order Amish family who was engaged to an older Mennonite college student, Paul Waddell. Although Hannah had grown up with a traditional Amish lifestyle on a farm in Owl’s Perch in Perry County, Pennsylvania, she yearned for something more. When Hannah is brutally assaulted, setting off a string of tragedies, Hannah flees her community --- and her fiancé --- and strikes out on her own.
WHEN THE MORNING COMES opens with Hannah broken in body and spirit. She’s made it to Alliance, Ohio, where she believes her father’s estranged twin, Zabeth, might take her in. Unable to find her aunt, Hannah ends up hospitalized and under the care of Dr. Lehman. When she recovers, he takes her under his tutelage and hires her to work with Amish women. He also encourages her to complete her education.
Meanwhile, Paul, Hannah’s fiancé, is riddled with regrets about how he handled the news of Hannah’s assault. “Now he had to find Hannah. He’d messed up by not being there for her, but from this point on, he would be --- if he could find her… He prayed that the Lord would soften her heart toward him and that she’d trust him enough to give him another chance.”
Woodsmall includes some nice sub-themes here, picking up the loose ends from book one. Hannah’s troubled 15-year-old sister Sarah discovers the full extent of the damage she did to Hannah, and this knowledge sends her over the edge of reason into mental illness. Soon, barns burn down under mysterious circumstances and Sarah roams the Amish community, looking for Hannah and a baby. But Sarah’s stubborn father refuses to believe Sarah needs more help than God and the community can offer, and soon Sarah’s mother, already bitter about his treatment of Hannah, turns against him. Will she lose both her daughters?
Hannah’s brother Luke is ready to tie the knot with Mary Yoder, one of Hannah’s best friends, but the buggy accident in book one has left Mary in precarious health. When Mary lies to Luke about her healing and they marry, disaster seems right around the corner. Readers will feel the tension build as Mary becomes pregnant --- and doesn’t tell Luke what her eventual pregnancy may cost them.
One of the most likable characters in WHEN THE HEART CRIES is Matthew Esh, a good friend of Hannnah’s who stuck by her in her troubles, and his story continues in this installment. Matthew’s romantic interest, Elle Leggett, decides to give the English way of life a try for six months and leaves with his blessing. But six months stretches into 12, and soon Matthew wonders if she will leave the Amish --- and him --- forever.
Some new characters make appearances in book two. Hannah’s Aunt Zabeth, dying from cancer, takes Hannah in and shows her by example the power of love and forgiveness. Through Zabeth, Hannah meets Martin Palmer, his sister Faye, and Faye’s two children, and is drawn into new romance and responsibilities just as she’s beginning to find her identity. Woodsmall creates a nice give and take between Hannah and Martin as they become friends, and then something more. But Paul is still looking for Hannah. Will she give her heart to another before he can ask for her forgiveness and win her back? This nice tension keeps the pages turning.
Woodsmall occasionally frustrates the reader with the characters’ misunderstandings (Paul sees Hannah but leaves without communicating with her after a long search --- painful!), but Woodsmall’s story is engaging, and Hannah’s continuing search for identity is appealing.
WHEN THE MORNING COMES ends with Hannah heading back to Pennsylvania after news arrived that some of her loved ones have been in a terrible accident. It’s a great cliffhanger to ratchet up anticipation for book three, WHEN THE SOUL MENDS. Readers won’t be able to resist.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011