- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Oct 2009
From the book
The aroma of fresh-baked bread, shepherd's pie, and steamed vegetables filled Lizzy's house, mingling with the sweet smell of baked desserts. In the hearth a bank of embers kept a small fire burning, removing the nip that clung to the early-April air.The noise of conversations rose and fell around Lizzy's kitchen table as her brother and his large family talked easily throughout the meal. His grown and almost-grown children filled the sides of her fourteen-foot table, and his grandchildren either sat in their mothers' laps or in highchairs.Nearly four decades ago her oldest brother had put effort into finding an Amish bride.When Stephen found the right girl, he married her. He'd handled life well, and the fruit of it fed her soul. Lizzy had focused on her business and never married. She didn't regret her choices, not for herself, but she'd crawl on her hands and knees the rest of her days to keep her niece from the same fate. Beth was like a daughter to Lizzy. Not long after the family's dry goods store passed to Lizzy, Beth graduated fromthe eighth grade and started working beside her. Soon she moved in with Lizzy, and they shared the one-bedroom apartment above the shop. When Lizzy had this house built a few years ago, her niece had stayed above Hertzlers' Dry Goods. Lizzy studied the young beauty as she answered her family's endless questions about her decisions in the middleman role between the Amish who made goods and the various Englischer stores who wanted those goods. That was her Beth. Answer what was asked. Do what was right. Always be polite. Offer to help before it was needed. And never let anyone see the grief that hadn't yet let go of her. Beth had banned even Lizzy from looking into the heartache that held her hostage.The one-year anniversary of Henry's death had come and gone without any sign from Beth that she might lay aside her mourning, so Lizzy had taken action. She'd prepared this huge meal and planned a social for the afternoon. Maybe all Beth needed was a loving, gentle nudge. If not, Lizzy had a backup plan—one Beth would not appreciate.Over the din of conversations, the sounds of horses and buggies arriving and the voices of young people drifted through the kitchen window, causing Beth to look at her. Lizzy placed her forearms on the table. "I've invited the young singles of the community for an evening of outdoor games, desserts, and a bonfire when the sun goes down."Two of Beth's single younger sisters, Fannie and Susie, glowed at the idea. With grace and gentleness, Beth turned to her Mamm and asked if she would need help planting this year's garden. It didn't seem to bother Beth that five of her sisters had married before her, and three of them were younger than she was. All but the most recently wed had children. Lizzy knew what awaited Beth if she didn't find someone—awkward and never-ending loneliness. Maybe she didn't recognize that. It wasn't until Henry came into Beth's life that she even seemed to notice that single men existed. Within a year of meeting, they were making plans to marry.Now, in an Amish community of dresses in rich, solid hues, Beth wore black.Through a window Lizzy saw the youngmen bring their rigs to a halt. The drivers as well as the passengers got out of the carriages. The girls soon huddled in groups, talking feverishly, while the guys went into the barn, pulled two wagons with plenty of hay into the field, and tied their horses to them. It was far easier to leave the animals harnessed and grazing on hay than to have to hitch a horse to its buggy in the dark. The young people knew the routine. They would remainoutside playing volleyball, horseshoes, or whatever else suited them until after the sun...