Naomi King isn’t expecting a miracle this Christmas, but it sure would be nice. Life in her Amish community of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania is filled with the love of family and friends, but not the kind of love Naomi is longing to find. So far, love has only left her heartbroken…twice. Caleb Schmucker isn’t looking for love. Ever since his wife died two years ago, he’s just trying to make a good life for his daughter and hopes they can both find happiness again. When Naomi and Caleb cross paths just before Christmas, they discover God is still in the business of making miracles, and one of them just might be Naomi’s gift.
"Likable characters, lovely imagery and a message of hope give the book the feel-good plot that makes this genre so popular."
Caleb and his seven-year-old daughter, Susie, return to Caleb’s hometown to spend Christmas with his sister and old friends. Just before reaching their destination, they stop at a farmer’s market, where Susie disappears into the crowd. Frantic, Caleb searches for her and spots her at a quilt stand, talking with a pretty woman. Their encounter is brief, but neither Caleb nor Naomi can push away thoughts of each other.
It isn’t long before the two meet again, as Naomi lives in the same church district as Caleb’s sister and has many ties to his family and friends. Christmas gatherings and shopping trips bring Caleb and Naomi together repeatedly, and each time, the spark that flickered during that first encounter burns brighter. They discover feelings they believed would never come again. Even little Susie is drawn to Naomi, and it warms Caleb’s heart to see her so happy again. Should he follow his friend’s suggestion and start his own buggy-building business in Bird-in-Hand? He feels ready to branch out on his own, and Susie would love living near her many cousins…and Naomi. But Caleb’s sister, Sadie, does not share the joy of the trio. She has other plans for Caleb --- plans that involve another woman and a different career path.
When Naomi is led to believe that Caleb is following his sister’s advice, and sees him talking with the other woman, she becomes sick with heartache. She knows she needs to trust God’s timing and plans for her life, but what if those plans mean a life without Caleb? Determined not to spend the evening being tortured by his presence, she leaves the Christmas Eve celebration alone, venturing out into a blizzard. Later, news spreads that Naomi never reached home. While she lies in the snow, injured and frozen, she doesn’t know that Caleb is searching for her, wondering if he has lost a second chance at love.
NAOMI’S GIFT is a sweet and pleasant, but predictable, Amish Christmas story that gently carries the reader to the expected happy ending. Likable characters, lovely imagery and a message of hope give the book the feel-good plot that makes this genre so popular. It also serves to remind readers that God is in control, even when we feel our lives are not heading in the direction we desire. Fans of author Amy Clipston will recognize the Kauffmans and other characters from her Kauffman Amish Bakery series.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on December 14, 2011