The Blessed (Shakers - Book 4) by Ann H. Gabhart
Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Genre: Christian Fiction/ Inspirational Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 404pp
(Received for an honest review from Revell Books)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Christianbook.com, IndieBound
Ann H. Gabhart on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter
Excerpt from The Blessed
It is 1844 and Lacey Bishop's life is a tangled mess. Estranged from her own family, at age 16 she started working for a preacher and his wife. All is fine until the wife dies a few years later and the preacher convinces Lacey the only decent thing to do is marry him. That way she can continue to act as mother to the little girl who was left on his doorstep. But Lacey never expected he would decide to take them all off to a Shaker village. There she's still married but living in a community that believes marriage is a sin. And to make matters worse, she finds herself drawn to Isaac Kingston, a man who came to the Shakers after his young bride died. But of course any notion of love between them is only a forbidden dream. How will Lacey ever find true happiness?
The fourth novel in Ann H. Gabhart's Shaker series is full of historical detail about the Shaker religion and other issues of faith. The Blessed, follows the story of a man and woman who are a part of the Shaker community, yet find themselves having feelings for each other. Gabhart fans will love the rich detail and the in depth research that Gabhart is known for. The authors ability to bring history to life is nothing short of amazing! This is a great Christian fiction read that will inspire readers to seek out that person that God has in store of each of them despite the circumstances.
Lacey Bishop moved in with Preacher and Miss Mona to help out around the house. When a baby, they affectionately name, Rachel is dropped on the doorstep, Lacey and Miss Mona raise her as their own. When Miss Mona dies the community begins to have concern about a young unmarried woman living with the preacher, which forces Lacey to either marry preacher or leave Rachel behind. Lacey doesn't seem to have a choice. When Preacher decides to move to a Shaker village, Rachel and Lacey are again forced to go with him or be separated. Once Lacey is in the Shaker community she begins to have feelings for a lonely Shaker man who came to the community after losing his wife. Isaac Kingston had no where to go and no where to turn when he came to the Shaker village at the urging of a friend. Is it possible for these two people to find love in a religious community that does not believe in marriage?
Being from Kentucky I am always interested in seeing how authors portray the Shaker religious community. Ann H. Gabhart has done a wonderful job in her Shaker series of allowing readers an inside look at a very private religion. In her latest book in the series, The Blessed, Gabhart not only gives readers a clear look at some of the beliefs and practices of the Shaker community, but she also delves into the subject of what happened when members had doubts about their faith. I thought she did an amazing job of bringing the Shakers to life. Gabhart has a knack for describing things in such a way that her books read more like a movie than a novel. The reader is transferred into the 1840's, right along with the characters.
Gabhart touches on several different issues within this book. One of my favorites was the way that the relationship between Rachel and Lacey allowed readers to see that loving a child doesn't always have to come from birth. Lacey is not Rachel's real mother, but the feelings between the two of them are no less important. Lacey sacrificed so much of her life for Rachel that it is easy to see the love they share. It reminded me of the fact that are so many children in need of that kind of love and that people need to open their hearts and homes to them and develop the kind of relationship that these two characters shared. Adoption and foster care, in my opinion, is so important for the Christian community to embrace and support. I thought Gabhart's portrayal of the Rachel and Lacey was heartfelt and meaningful.
Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was of course the relationship between Isaac and Lacey. Here you have two people who have come into the Shaker community without necessarily embracing the beliefs the Shaker's adhere to. Isaac is a widow, who lost his wife and Lacey is already married to the preacher. They are both in a community that doesn't believe in marriage. I wouldn't say it is against their will necessarily, but the circumstances have placed them in a helpless situation. But, throughout the story the characters learn that God works in mysterious ways to bring about the situations they need to learn from and be in. I thought Gabhart did a great job of showing the doubts the characters experienced and how they were able to come to the decisions God wanted for them. Things don't always go the way we expect them to and that is very apparent in this book.
I recommend this one to Christian fiction readers and those who are interested in the Shaker religious community. The Shakers bordered somewhat on cultist behavior and I think the author is really able to convey that in her writing. You not only get a good Christian based story, but you also get a bit of a history lesson as well. Though this is the fourth book in the series it can be read as a stand alone. It's fast paced and can be read in a couple of sittings. I found it inspiring and very interesting.
The Blessed is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Living just thirty miles from a restored Shaker village in Kentucky, Ann H. Gabhart has walked the same path's that her characters might have walked in generations past. Her thorough research provides a colorful backdrop for her Shaker novels. Gabhart is the author of several bestselling novels including, The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker and Angel Sister.