Monday, April 21, 2008

A Mending at the Edge

Have you ever read a book that hits so close to home that it leaves your soul raw and aching? When I signed up to blog tour A Mending at the Edge by Jane Kirkpatrick, I had no idea what I was in for. God bless the publicity people, because they sent me the entire series of three books so that I could get caught up before reading the last book.

The first book, A Clearing in the Wild, starts off with teenaged Emma Wagner, who lives in a religious communal community in Bethel, Missouri under the leadership of Wilhelm Keil. Emma has set her sights on Christian Giesy, a leader in the community who has devoted his entire life to serving Father Keil. Keil is sending a group of scouts out to Washington Territory to find land for the entire commune to move to. The railroad and other outside influences are coming too close to his people, and he's worried about their safety. Headstrong Emma manages to first marry Christian and then finagle her way as the only female member of the scouting team, conveniently forgetting to mention that she's pregnant. The group of nine men, plus Emma travel across the West encountering Indians, the Rockies, and inclement weather, all in a quest to find a new home for Father Keil. By the time they arrive in northern Washington, Emma has baby Andy and a goat named Opal. The scouts try to start building homes and planting crops in the completely unfamiliar territory. Christian is the leader, but Emma regularly butts heads with him trying to do things her way. I fell in love with the character of Emma. She's stubborn, driven, and always certain that she's right. Sounds like someone my family knows very well. Emma tends to rely on herself more than Christian or even God, despite her deep faith. Based on the real life Emma Giesy, this book is an amazing story of courage and perserverance.

A Tendering in the Storm is the second book in the series, and the one that broke my heart. Emma and Christian are working on oyster farming in their home of Willapa, Washington, while the rest of Father Keil's group is living in the Aurora Colony in Oregon. Tragedy strikes leaving Emma alone and struggling to survive in the remote wilderness with three children. Again, Emma asserts her independence, this time to her entire family's detriment. I spent the entire book rooting for Emma and proud of her striving to take care of herself indepent of the colony, so when she needs to turn to someone for help, at first I was disappointed. Then I did some soul searching and came to realize just how much like Emma I am. I don't like asking other people for help and will often resist doing so until I (and others) are suffering because of my stubborn pride. Emma hates owing anything to the colony and others and nearly breaks herself trying to keep the scales even, but comes to discover that we are stronger when we lean on each other. This is true of faith as well. There is absolutely nothing we can do to even the score with God. He loves us, He died for us, and He saved us. End of story. No amount of works can make us worthy, and this is a huge hurdle for me and my faith. I have a hard time accepting God's love, because I know it comes with the acceptance of my weakness. Like Emma, that's not easy for me. I learned so much about myself and faith from this book.

After finishing that book, I sat at the kitchen table and sobbed to Jesse, confessing my stubborn behavior. It was hard to even pick up the third book after reading this one. I felt so seen by God. But I couldn't wait to see how Emma's story ended.

A Mending at the Edge finishes Emma's story. Now living in the Aurora Colony in Oregon with her four children, she's still trying to live life on her terms, while also serving the colony and taking care of her family. The lessons she learns are increasingly hard, but Emma faces them all with courage and strength. After finally getting a house in which to raise her children, she loses the right to raise her own sons. Despite working long days there, there are people who still hold her previous mistakes over her head and judge her based on them. But Emma finally discovers what she values most and what home really means. Again this book resounded powerfully within me. Emma is often angry at God for giving her a life different than the one that she had hoped for. At first, she keeps trying to put her feet on the same path toward the future she wants, but when she accepts and embraces the present that the Lord has given her, she blossoms. Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis is a future I never thought I would face and one I still rail at God for giving it to me. Emma's life is full of lessons for me about faith, acceptance, and love. This is an absolutely terrific series.

Would you like a chance to win A Mending at the Edge? I'm giving away two copies this week! Just drop me an email at before midnight on Thursday, April 24th, and you're in. I'll announce the winners here on the blog Friday. Good luck!