Hopeful by Shelley Shepard Gray

This review gives more insight than just "it was/wasn't a good book" or "this is/isn't a must read". While I try not to give too much away, sometimes it's difficult to write about the story and have it not be revealing.   

Miriam Zehr was a twenty-five unmarried Amish woman. She had always like Junior Beiler but never even talked to him. She happily baked pies and served guests at the Sugarcreek Inn. But inside she yearned for change in her life.

Junior Beiler didn’t want anything to change in his life until recently. He was content on being single but then he saw the community’s new teacher Mary Kate Hershberger. He was taken aback by her beauty. Mary Kate was just trying to settle into her new life and leave her old one behind. She was thankful to have a friend in Miriam.

When Junior asked Miriam to introduce him to Mary Kate she was a little crushed but also ecstatic that he was even talking to her. I thought he was an absolute jerk for even approaching her about meeting Mary Kate. But as I read more about Junior he grew on me. He was the oldest son who was raising his siblings after the death of his parents. He wasn’t as insensitive as he first seemed.

Mary Kate’s behavior was a little questionable at first also. She didn’t seem to be a caring teacher. She was having her own issues, which is why she left home without letting anyone know where she went. Junior was somehow able to overlook Mary Kate’s unkindness towards his sister because he thought she was so pretty.

Some characters from previous books taking place in Sugarcreek are in Hopeful. Judith and Ben Knox are minor characters in this story. Their full story is in Christmas in Sugarcreek. Judith was friends with Miriam. I liked catching up with the Knox’s a little as I read though Hopeful.

There are a few life lessons going on in this story. One has to deal with looks verses personality. Which one is more important in the end? Mary Kate had the looks but not the personality that Junior wanted. Miriam had the personality but Junior had never even gotten to know her until her asked about Mary Kate. He had never been physically attracted to Miriam. That leads me back to Miriam. Everyone thought she was so nice and helpful but she didn’t have a best friend until Mary Kate came to town. She didn’t see herself as others saw her. The last lesson would be that we need to give our hopes to God so that he can work them out for us. A good example from the story is Miriam’s parents. It seemed to Miriam that all they hoped for was for her to get married. When Junior came over they jumped to the conclusion that Miriam would be married soon.

I enjoyed reading about Miriam and all of her hopes for a future that were different than her present situation, about Mary Kate and her hope for a new life different from her past, and about Junior raising his siblings but also hoping for a family of his own one day.

Hopeful is the first book in Shelley Shepard Gray’s new Amish Fiction series Return to Sugarcreek. She already has a series that is set in the same area called Seasons of Sugarcreek. I haven’t read any of those books but I read Christmas in Sugarcreek, a Christmas novella that I really enjoyed.

I received a free copy of this book from The Christian Manifesto and Avon Inspire in exchange for my honest review.

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