When I read a fiction book I like to be entertained but I also like to learn something. This week I found one that really did both. “Gladden the Heart” by Olivia Newport is a historical Christian novel telling the tale Amish coming to this country. It is Book 5 in her “Amish Turns of Time” series but can easily be read as a stand alone. This 317 page paperback published by Barbour is not the typical Amish novel I am used to reading, but I really enjoyed it. Books that teach me something even though they are fiction are some of my favorites, and this book taught me many things.
This is the tale of Susanna and Adam, a courting Amish couple in the year is 1847. It also is the story of Noah Troyer and John Kauffman, two Amish “sleeping preachers”. Never before reading this book had I heard of a “sleeping preacher” which is someone who preaches while in a trance or sleeplike state. It was so interesting and worth reading. Tent revivals, Amish, Methodists, sleeping preachers, family issues, religious differences, and prejudice are all taken on in this historical novel.
Reading how many Amish were converted at revivals was amazing to me. This was the first I had ever heard of it. I wish more Amish authors would write historical information in their novels. The Amish Bishop did not approve of the sleep-preaching but the English had no problem with it. This story is full of conflict, suspense, romance, encouragement, twists, turns, and information. Scripture is heavily sprinkled throughout this book as is preaching.
The author has a nice writing style. She adds a lot of history without being boring. Her characters are well described and lovable. Even the secondary ones, like Susanna’s mother, were well rounded down to their faults. The conversation is well written and flows smoothly. Author Newport has written a well defined, organized, researched story with her lovely style.
“Gladden the Heart” had me giggling, gasping, and turning pages to see what was happening next. I loved it all. After the story is over there is a section of “author notes” which I found interesting. Unfortunately there are no study questions, but that should not hinder a group from reading and discussing this. I would recommend this book. It is a very different Amish book but this reader loved it. Definitely a 5 star from me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.