Though part of a series, this book can be read as a stand-alone.
Bethany House Publishers
Expected Release Date: March 26, 2013 [Currently available for pre-order from most booksellers.]
Synopsis: When schoolteacher Jodi Winfield goes for a morning run, the last thing she expects is to find a disheveled little girl all alone on the side of the Pennsylvania road, clad only in her undergarments, her chubby cheeks streaked with tears. Jodi takes the preschooler home with her, intending to find out where she belongs. But Jodi is mystified when no one seems to know of a missing child, and the girl herself is no help, since she can’t speak a word of English. It’s as if the child appeared out of nowhere. As the days pass, Jodi becomes increasingly attached to the mysterious girl, yet she is no closer to learning her identity. Then an unexpected opportunity brings Jodi to Hickory Hollow–and into the cloistered world of the Lancaster Old Order Amish. Might the answers lie there?
I can’t say for sure what it is that draws readers to the Amish world but, if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with the simplistic way the Amish can make us see problems – and, thus, their solutions. I’m referring not to the way they live but to the way they view things. What seems complicated or overwhelming to us is usually pretty straightforward to the Amish – and can always be solved by trusting God.
Beverly Lewis’ latest book The Guardian, I have to say, starts out slow. As the blurb says, The Guardian is about Jodi finding a 4-year-old girl while out on her morning run. However, it takes several drawn-out chapters of inner-dialoge – both from Jodi’s point-of-view and that of the child’s mother Maryanna – just to get to the point where Jodi finds the girl. By the end of the book, I could see where some of it was necessary, but it could have been condensed without impacting the plot.
Fortunately, once Jodi finally finds little Sarah, the story picks up considerably – and hits the pace we’ve come to expect from Beverly Lewis. As we experience the story, told from several points-of-view – that of Jodi, Maryanna, and sometimes Maryanna’s neighbor Joshua – it’s so easy to get drawn in as we fall for Jodi and the wonderful people she encounters in Hickory Hollow. Of course, as many Beverly Lewis reader can tell you, once you start one of her books, it’s nearly impossible to put it down until it’s finished.
While reading this book, I was frequently reminded of the old saying “everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes, there is no explaining why children develop attachments to certain people so quickly, but it’s clear to Maryanna that there must be a reason her daughter is so drawn to Jodi, the Englischer schoolteacher. The character developments were nicely entwined within the story, making connections between why certain events brought Maryanna, Jodi, and Joshua to this point in their lives and how Jodi, Maryanna, and even little Sarah will help get them back on the right path.
With her latest addition to the Home to Hickory Hollows series, Lewis successfully traverses the balance between the Englischers and the Plain people once again, while still developing a fresh plot and unique characters. Beverly Lewis certainly knows how to create characters and storylines so powerful that they stay with you long after you’ve finished the book – and The Guardian is no exception. As adults, we often feel that we know everything. Beverly Lewis’ newest novel is, ultimately, a great story about restoring faith shaken by tragedy – learning to trust that, even under the worst circumstances, God is with you.