Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Kelly Irvin - The Beekeeper's Son

Phineas King knows better than to expect anything but shock and pity wherever he shows his face. Horribly scarred from the tragic accident that claimed his mother’s life, he chooses to keep his distance from everyone, focusing his time and energy on the bees his family raises. If no one sees him, no one can judge him. So why does he start finding excuses to seek out Deborah Lantz, the beautiful new arrival in town?
Deborah can’t get out of Bee County, Texas, soon enough. Once her mother and younger siblings are settled, she is on the first bus out of this dusty town. She is only waiting on the letter from Aaron, asking her to return to lush Tennessee to be his fraa. But that letter never comes. As she spends time getting to know Phineas—hoping to uncover the man beneath the scars—she begins to realize that she no longer minds that Aaron hasn’t sent for her.
As both Deborah and Phineas try to come to terms with lives that haven’t turned out the way they imagined, they discover that perhaps Gott’s plans for them are more extraordinary than they could have dreamed. But they need to let go of their own past sorrows and disappointments to find the joy and beauty that lies just ahead for them both.

Comment: My friend H. once suggested this book as a possible buddy read for us and now, at last, it was time to get to it!

In this book we follow the Lantz family as they travel from Tennessee to Texas, so that Abigail and her daughters and son can live near her brother John, now two years after the death of her husband. They hope the new community will be welcome and a new hope, for Abigail has reconnected with Stephen, a man she once refused to marry her husband but she hopes time has made it easier to accept a new person. 
At the same time, Deborah, her oldest daughter at 19, is facing contradictory feelings, she wants to be with her family but she is sad she left a special friend behind, Aaron, whom she hoped could marry her. This makes her reluctant to accept life in a new place, especially when it's obvious Stephen doesn't seem the type of man her mother would be happy to marry. 
They also meet the King family, namely Mordecai and Phineas, two man who are humble and both mother and daughter feel close to them, in very different ways. Will the Lantz find a purpose? Will they understand the path God had set for them on time to grasp happiness?

So, no surprise this is an inspirational novel, featuring Amish characters. I think for those who are used to this genre, this book is actually quite good and feels different from many others out there, but if this is a first attempt, I also think it works, for the themes aren't too heavy on religion - I mean, it's there, but not preaching in every page or situation - and there is a good focus on emotions and personal relationships instead of the big picture or simply the Amish style of life.

Actually, I was quite surprised this is a contemporary story! I didn't pay enough attention to the blurb but having read mostly just historicals featuring Amish characters in the past, it was quite a jolt to have references to modern stuff and even french fries at MacDonalds. This is not a problem, it was in fact surprisingly fresh and interesting to have a very different perspective from what I was used to read in this genre and I found myself interested in the characters's worries and dilemmas.

The plot is very simple and with a clear focus. The Lantz family traveled a long way to be close to Abigail's family and for her to possibly marry again..she knows it would be easier for everyone if she did it and there is a man who is interested. We learn they courted in the past but she ended up choosing her husband instead of Stephen. She hoped he would seem different now but as their interactions happen, it becomes obvious Stephen isn't an easy man to love and that their personalities don't match. At the same time, it feels effortless how she and Mordecai connect over simple things such as the fact they are both widowed, that they like the same things, and although this is never mentioned, it is clear for the reader they feel attracted too.

We also have Deborah and Phineas' story, which becomes obvious from the start. Their relationship is more opposites attract, not only because Deborah first is pining for her previous life and dreams but also Phineas isn't very social, due to an accident in his youth, which caused him to end up with many scars and his mother died. There's a certain vibe of "beauty and the beast" here but the idea is for us to get to see how they slowly realize that person is perfect because they both take the time to know each other and to want the best for one another.

I don't think it's any surprise that both couples end up finding happiness while dealing with external issues such as a fire for instance, which affects several things, but that the majority is indeed on how they an emotionally heal from what they faced before, what kind of expectations they all should have and how love and happiness don't have to be so complicated, except for conventions and if one cares for the feelings of others.

Of course, the Amish element also includes some "rules" of behavior, social conventions that must be followed within the community. I believe what was shared is realistic, although it isn't a subject I'm familiar with, but the content is approachable enough to even a non believer or for a person without any specific faith to appreciate the importance of it for the characters.

This was a simple romance, with expected scenes and situations, but I liked reading it, it did give me an idea of what the contemporary lives of people in Amish communities might be dealing with now, how they organize themselves and why and how they deal with outsiders as well...well, more or less, we didn't have much of it but I was able to get an idea. I'm not yet certain I will read the next book...
Grade: 7/10

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