By Vannetta Chapman
Plain and Simple Miracles, #1
Harvest House, 2015
Anna's Healing is the first book in a brand-new collection from popular author Vannetta Chapman. These stories of love and family and Amish community in Oklahoma tell of the miracles that can happen when lives are lived in service to God and to one another.
When a tornado strikes the farms surrounding Cody's Creek, Anna Schwartz's life is changed forever. She suffers a spinal cord injury and suddenly finds herself learning to live as a paraplegic.
Three people--Chloe Roberts, Jacob Graber, and Ruth Schwartz--join forces to help Anna through her darkest days. Chloe is an Englischer who writes for the local paper. Jacob has recently arrived in town and stays on as a hired hand at her uncle's. And Ruth is her grandmother, a woman of deep faith and a compassionate spirit.
Then one morning Anna wakes and finds herself healed. How did it happen? Why did it happen? And what is she to do now? Her life is again turned upside down as the world's attention is drawn to this young Amish girl who has experienced the unexplainable.
If awards were based on personal impact, Anna’s Healing would win a gold medal. This story pulled me in from Chloe’s question in the very first sentence – “Was Anna healed?” – and touched me over and over, page after page. I read it slowly, with tears in my eyes more than once. This won’t be a typical review because Anna’s Healing isn’t a typical book.
Chloe, a reporter and close friend to Anna, came to realize “that writing was more than a job, it was a calling” – and I think that’s exactly the way Vannetta Chapman approaches her writing. No matter the genre, Vannetta writes in a lyrical style, her storylines entertain, and she has a way with characters, making them feel so real that they could be your neighbors. But in this Plain and Simple Miracles series, she delves into what it really means to be a Christian in a way that is life-changing for the reader.
Here are the main characters . . .
- Anna had a restless spirit, felt smothered by her large family, and moved to Cody’s Creek in northeast Oklahoma to “find the answers to how she was supposed to live her life, and where, and with whom.”
- Jacob was also restless and had a need to travel, until Anna and her family’s needs gave him a reason to stay. On a romantic level, Jacob represents the kind of love we all long for … a love that sees with the heart, that sees beyond outside appearance, that puts the other’s needs before his own.
- Chloe reported for a local newspaper, developed a deep friendship with Anna, and her articles beautifully convey the stories of Anna and the community. She learns how precious life and relationships are.
Anna’s paralyzation as the result of a freak accident during a tornado becomes the pivotal point of the story. Bishop Levi quotes an Amish proverb to Jacob that has an application to all of us: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Questions are asked, questions for which there are no easy answers: Why did this happen? Why hasn’t God answered my prayer for healing? Why me? Anna experienced all that anyone would – depression, a feeling that life no longer had meaning – but what makes this story so eye opening is watching the positive ways in which the community and those closest to Anna responded.
There was so much that resonated with me in Anna’s Healing . . . the importance of asking what God wants us to learn in difficult times . . . that life is precious and should be lived to the fullest . . . and a believing faith most of all. My favorite character was Ruth, Anna’s grandmother, for her prayers literally bathed Anna in the Psalms as she continuously prayed and believed in Anna’s healing. I want to be more like Ruth.
We always think of healing as physical, but I think the real healing in this story, as in life, is of the heart. To a certain extent, the characters take secondary roles – for there is only one main character, and that is God. Anna’s dreams or visions play a moving part, and the one where all of her loved ones were together celebrating drew many tears of happiness from me: “The scene at the table, in the center of the harvest, was a promise of another reunion – one that would last for all eternity. A holy gathering of those she loved – both those present and those who had gone ahead.”
Anna’s Healing was a 2016 Christy Award finalist, and deservedly so. Read it even if you don’t particularly enjoy Amish fiction, for it is so much more.
Very highly recommended.
Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania.
Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award winner for best mystery. All of her books have been Christian Book Distributor bestsellers. She currently writes Amish fiction for Abingdon Press, Zondervan, and Harvest House. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.
Thank you to Vannetta Chapman and Harvest House Publishers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.