Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Gladden the Heart

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About the Book

Book title: Gladden the Heart  
Author: Olivia Newport  
Release date: July 1, 2017  
Genre: Historical Amish  

“When you have experienced the Holy Ghost as I have, you would see that it is difficult to turn back.” 

When the lively fervor of nineteenth century revivalism endangers the staid customs of the Amish community in the lush but rugged Kishacoquillas Valley of central Pennsylvania in 1847, the Amish church must deal with a divisive question: What is a genuine spiritual experience? 

The question turns personal when Susanna’s beloved cousin Noah begins preaching while under trances and even though he is not a minister he gives long sermons that attract increasing attention. Curious, she helps to keep Noah safe during his trances. At the same time Adam, Susanna’s intended, feels pressure from the bishop to speak out against the ways of revivalism. 

Susanna and Adam are pushed to opposite sides of a controversy that threatens their traditional Amish faith.. Now they must grapple with whether love is possible…even if they come to different conclusions. 

When Noah goes missing at a time of day when he often preaches while asleep, circumstances thrust community members with divergent opinions into a crisis that demands they recognize the humanity they share regardless of beliefs. But can strong-held opinions be softened by the truths that shape their lives?

My Thoughts

Gladden the Heart has a different feel than a lot of Amish fiction as it draws inspiration from real-life historical events and explores the “what if” aspect. I’ve always enjoyed reading about the circuit-riding preachers and evangelistic meetings of the 1800s, and Olivia Newport does a great job of bringing this era to life. While there is some romance, it takes a back seat to the historical themes and conflict within the Amish community.

Noah spoke of God’s love, of human failings,
of faithfulness, of repentance, of redemption, of new life,
of serving Christ with love toward one another,
of unceasing prayer, of God’s gracious gift of salvation.

Newport draws inspiration from something I hadn’t heard of – the “sleeping preacher” phenomenon and the fact that the Amish were losing some of their members to these revival preachers. Susanna’s beloved cousin, Noah, becomes a polarizing figure as he starts falling into trances and preaching in an evangelistic style, resulting in conflict within family and community. The relationship between Susanna and Adam also comes into conflict over Noah.

The pace moves slowly at times, but I enjoyed this story and it gave me much to reflect upon. One of my favorite characters was Niklaus, a good and humble Amish minister who followed the convictions of his heart in preaching. I also loved the contrast between grace and judgment, assurance and fear. The title reflects this story’s theme well, for it’s the beauty of faith that gladdens the heart.


I was provided a free copy of this book from Celebrate Lit and Barbour Publishing. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to discover where faith and passions meet. She chases joy in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is. 

Her books include the Avenue of Dreams series set in 1890s Chicago; the Valley of Choice series, which intertwines contemporary and historical Amish stories; the historical Amish Turns of Time series; and Hidden Falls, a warm, contemporary, small-town novel.

Guest Post from Olivia Newport

Sleepy Sundays

Now don’t laugh, but my guess is that if you looked around your church on any given Sunday morning, you’d see somebody sleeping. It might be an infant or toddler whose nap time collides with the worship time resting in a parent’s arms, or it might be a senior citizen who has perfected the art of dozing in an upright position. 

What you don’t expect is that the person sleeping will be the preacher. 

I’ve always been interested in church history. I even read a magazine called Christian History on a regular basis and consider it pleasure reading. In my ambling through church history, I came across a notation about “sleeping preachers” in the nineteenth century in various denominations, including the Amish. The accounts suggested that individuals who were not ministers would fall unconscious, wake up to preach for lengthy periods, sleep again, and have no recollection of their actions. 

Could this possibly be true? Or a giant hoax? What’s a genuine spiritual experience, and what do we do when don’t agree on how to answer that question? Let’s face it, even now, 150 years later, we still don’t quite know what to do with our varying traditions when we don’t agree on how to answer that question. 

I knew I had the makings of a story. Gladden the Heart travels back to 1847 and wrestles with these questions. When a divided community faces a life-or-death situation, they must respond to a crisis that challenges them to look past their differences. But can strong-held opinions be softened by the truths that shape their lives? 

Gladden the Heart is the fifth story in Olivia Newport’s Amish Turns of Time series of historical Amish novels. Olivia chases joy in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.


To celebrate her tour, Olivia is giving away a Grand Prize that consists of: 
All five books in the Amish Turns of Time series 
Bonus: All three books in the Valley of Choice series 
$25 Amazon Gift Card!! 
Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading Amish fiction and this sounds different than other Amish stories. Would love to read "Gladden the Heart".