Friday, December 09, 2011

Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Edythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a strong believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?

Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council hired a female teacher to replace the ruthless man who terrorized his nephews for the past two years. Having raised the boys on his own since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel believes they will benefit from a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel. Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods, which include collecting leaves, catching bugs, making snow angels, and stringing ropes in strange patterns all over the schoolyard. Joel can't help but notice that she's also mighty pretty with her rosy lips, fashionable clothes, and fancy way of speaking.

Review notes from ~Mary
This is an easy read, which is important when you want to escape into a good book without much thought or effort. But don't interpret "easy read" as fluff. Quite to the contrary. Edythe is a feisty, independent, unconventional woman. Those qualities of hers that are endearing to some become rough as sandpaper to others, and the new teacher in town is sure to make a few enemies along the way. The protagonist is a strong character, and never veers from what you would expect from her. That is important in a piece of fiction. Good books are ruined when the author becomes bored and creates a situation where the main character(s) act out of character. We're talking about Sawyer, though, and she does not make rookie mistakes like that.

Whether her teaching methods are right or wrong, good for the children or disruptive, Edythe encounters many other problems that cause her teaching dilemmas to pale in contrast. How does her faith-or lack of-influence her decisions? Can she let go of control and trust a God she has never seen to work things out for her benefit? Does she possess the strength of character to fight for what she believes in, even if the town turns against her?

These are not life circumstances or questions that are confined to a fictional novel. They speak to us and about our unique journey through life, settling the argument that Christian fiction goes beyond merely entertaining. Great Christian fiction is timeless, and Sawyer has penned a timeless novel.

Have I mentioned that this is a must read for prairie fans? Sawyer described the mercantile, school and life among the families so well that I could see these places as vividly as a Little House on the Prairie episode. Courting Miss Amsel is not a poor attempt at mimicking the 1970's television show, but rather a nicely done addition to those that love the prairie era in history.

Light reading. Meaningful. Vivid and descriptive. Perfect for night reading beside a well stoked fire while cradling your coffee or tea cup. Be forewarned, though. Sawyer's style of taking the reader hostage from the first page is alive and well in this novel. Grab your Snickers; you won't be going anywhere until the last page is read.

Paperback: 346 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764207849
ISBN-13: 978-0764207846
Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches