Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: A Christmas Haven by Cindy & Erin Woodsmall

A Christmas Haven
By Cindy & Erin Woodsmall
Sequel to The Christmas Remedy
Waterbrook, 2019


Old Order Amish Ivy Zook is wrestling with her need to shed her community's ways so she can grow the business of her dreams: planning parties. As long as she's stuck living without modernization, she can barely get her business on its feet. But if she leaves too soon, she'd cause trouble for her sister, Holly, who is planning her wedding to Joshua Smucker. All of their plans become twice as complicated when an old car crashes into the storefront of Greene's Pharmacy, carrying a Swartzentruber (ultra-conservative sect) Amish man, Arlan, and his very ill sister.

The Zooks take in Arlan and Madga, tending to the woman's illness and Arlan begins helping around the family farm. Ivy and Arlan are on different tracks, one wanting to leave her community and the other to return to his. But both young people are trying to discover what God has in store for their futures and what miracles might lie around the corner this Christmas season. 

My thoughts

Is this what the Word meant by “abundant life”? To 
experience the fullness of the heart, mind, and emotions?
To give room to all of it in one’s own self and in others 
without trying to suppress or control it? 
- Arlan

I love that quote because it encapsulates the overall theme of A Christmas Haven, that of discovering what abundant life means personally. Although a novella in length, the story has depth, characters are well developed, and complex situations of life are explored. The story of Holly and Josh that began in The Christmas Remedy continues, but this story easily stands alone.

A Christmas Haven has a great ensemble cast. As I’m new to the series, I enjoyed Holly, who had “worked so hard to become a bridge that linked modern medicine to the area’s Amish communities,” hopefully by eventually becoming an LPN. Brother and sister, Arlan and Magda, enter the scene suddenly when Arlan crashes his car into the storefront of Greene’s Pharmacy. And then there’s Holly’s sister, Ivy, who seeks happiness by leaving the Amish community to start a party planning business.

The Woodsmalls shine light on interesting conflicts within the Amish faith that I found interesting. For one, there’s the contrast between Old Order ways and the Swartzentruber sect. I’ve always thought the Old Order to be ultra conservative, but the Swartzentruber beliefs take it to a whole other level. Then there’s Ivy’s drive to use her natural talents and find fulfillment in a business not condoned by the Amish. And there’s no certainty that the bishop, whose job is to preserve the Old Ways, will sanction Holly’s work, even though it benefits the Amish community.

I love the connotation of the word haven in the title, a place of safety or refuge, for that’s something we all seek in our Christian walk, along with this story’s characters. Another important lesson is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, as Ivy learned to find that perfect balance of expectations between Amish rules and personal dreams.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Christmas Haven and hope to see further stories featuring these characters. Also, as much of the narrative takes place throughout the year, this novella works well for all seasons.


I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Cindy & Erin Woodsmall

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA bestselling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family.

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade.

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