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An Amish Christmas: A Novel Hardcover – October 26, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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About the Author

Cynthia Keller is lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

“You’re looking a little pathetic there, Mom.”

As her daughter, Lizzie, entered the kitchen, the words startled Meg from her reverie. Leaning on both elbows at the kitchen’s butcher-block island, she’d been staring, unseeing, at the large tray of untouched cookies before her. She reached up to remove the tall witch’s hat she’d been wearing for the past two hours, and set it down beside the tray.

“They’re such cute cookies, aren’t they?” Meg asked her daughter in a wistful voice. “Not one trick-or-treater this year. I can’t believe it.”

Lizzie, her laptop computer tucked under one arm, paused to stare at her mother’s handiwork. “Dude, how long did it take you to make all these? They’re insane.”

“Don’t call me ‘dude,’” Meg responded automatically. “I thought it would be fun to try something different. It wasn’t a big deal.”

She had no intention of confessing to her fifteen-year-old how long the process had taken. After finally locating the correct chocolate cookies—the ones with the hollow centers—she had used icing to “glue” chocolate Kisses, points up, into the middles, then she’d painstakingly drawn hatbands and bows with a tiny tube of red icing. The result was rows and rows of miniature witch hats. Adorable. They would end up being tossed into the bottomless pits that were the stomachs of her thirteen-year-old son, Will, and his friends.

“Honestly, why do you bother?” Lizzie’s muffled voice came from inside their walk-in pantry closet. Meg knew her daughter was grabbing her favorite evening snack, two Pop-Tarts that she would eat right out of the foil package. “No one cares. It’s stupid.”

Meg quietly sighed. Maybe it was stupid to hang the tissue ghosts from the trees in their front yard. To carve the jack-o’-lantern that was the centerpiece of the arrangement on the front steps, with hay, gourds, stuffed scarecrow, and all. Okay, so Lizzie and Will were too old for the giant figures of witches and goblins that she’d taped on the windows. Lizzie was at some in-between stage, too cool to trick-or-treat but probably looking forward to next year, when some of the kids would have driver’s licenses. Meg anticipated there would be parties at different houses, no doubt with alcohol involved; She wasn’t looking forward to that phase. Will had also declined going from house to house this year, preferring to goof around with his buddies on someone’s driveway basketball court. But she’d thought Sam, her nine-year-old, might still have gotten a kick out of her decorations. Wrong. He never appeared to notice them, and he’d barely made it through a half hour of ringing doorbells before declaring he’d had enough of this holiday. What on earth had happened to Halloween being so much crazy fun, the way it was when she was a child? Didn’t kids know how to enjoy a holiday anymore? Besides, she was cutting back on the fuss; in the past, she would have spent hours baking cookies for trick-or-treaters. This year she had simply combined premade ingredients.

Lizzie, armed with her snack, left the room as the jarring noise of the garage door opening announced that Meg’s husband was home. She watched James enter and set down his briefcase in the mudroom before coming toward her. He looked exhausted. As the top in-house legal counsel to a large software corporation, he more than earned his salary. Somehow he managed to withstand endless pressure, maintain constant accessibility, and coolly handle one crisis after another. And those were only a few of his job requirements, it seemed to her.

Pulling off his suit jacket, he gave Meg a perfunctory kiss on the cheek.

“Happy Halloween,” Meg said brightly.

“Ummm.” His attention was already on the day’s mail, which he retrieved from its customary spot on one of the counters. He was frowning as he flipped through the envelopes.

“Something wrong?”

“Too many bills, Meg.” He sounded angry. “Too many bills. It’s got to stop.”

She didn’t reply. In eighteen years of marriage, James had rarely complained about their bills. Sure, he wasn’t thrilled with paying private school tuition for three children, but it was something he and Meg both wanted to do. Beyond that, it was understood between them and even among their friends that his wife was the saver and he was the spender.

Meg had always understood that things were important to her husband. It was he who purchased the designer suits, their fancy watches, her expensive jewelry. It was he who booked the first-class vacations. He was the one, in fact, who chose this enormous house. Even with three children, Meg had no idea why they needed five thousand square feet in one of the most expensive sections of Charlotte.

It was clear that growing up with very little had left a psychological scar on James that he tried to cover up with material trappings. She didn’t like it, but she understood. That was what he needed to feel comfortable. He didn’t brag or rub his success in anyone’s face. Still, it was as if he had to have more of everything just to feel he was level with everyone else.

Recently, though, he seemed to have undergone a change in thinking. He had started complaining regularly about everything she and the children spent.

“Are you hungry?” Meg moved to open the refrigerator door.

He slapped the mail back down on the counter. “I mean it! The spending has to stop. We need to batten down the hatches.”

She turned back to him. “You’re right,” she said soothingly. “We will—the hatches, I mean, and the battening. Now, can I get you something to eat?”

“I don’t want anything,” he snapped. “I’ll be in my study.”

Meg stared after him. Aside from his sudden financial prudence, he had been uncharacteristically irritable for a while now. And it had been getting worse, she realized, not better. She heard the door to his study slam shut. James was typically calm, even in a crisis. Especially in a crisis, she amended. That was one of the things she loved about him.

They met as sophomores at the University of Illinois in a nineteenth-century American history class. Meg happened to sit next to him one day early in the semester. When he began to juggle a pen, an assignment pad, and an empty soda can, it made her laugh. She grew more interested in him when he was the only one in class who was able to discuss all the major battles of the Civil War before the reading had even been assigned.

Their relationship had started out as more of a friendship. A little teasing back and forth led to some shared coffees, then pizza while studying for the final exam. Slowly, their connection grew and deepened. James proved to be a stabilizing influence on the flighty, directionless girl Meg had been. She had admired his strength, his solidness—not the physical kind but the kind that made her feel cared for and safe. Of course, she reflected with a smile, she hadn’t minded that he was tall and broad-chested, with thick sandy-colored hair and large dark eyes whose intent gaze made her feel she was the most important person in the room.

By the end of junior year, it was clear to both of them that marriage would follow on the heels of graduation. While he went to law school, she set up their first apartment and helped support them by working in a boring but well-paying job as an administrative assistant. The plan had always been for Meg to go to law school once James had a job, but then she got pregnant with Lizzie, and that was that. Which was perfectly fine with Meg. She wouldn’t trade one minute of time with her three children for anything in the world. Working would have been impractical for her, anyway, since they had moved to three different states over the years because of on the series of job offers that came James’s way. His drive and early success meant their lives were far more than comfortable. She and the children had everything they could ever need and more.

Maybe too much more.

She heard her older son coming downstairs—his feet, as usual, clomping rapidly rather than just walking. He was talking, his voice growing louder as he approached. “That is so sick, man!”

Meg rolled her eyes, understanding this to be high praise for whatever it was Will was discussing. She called out to him.

He stuck his head in the kitchen. He was slender and noticeably tall for an eighth-grader, with a face remarkably like his father’s. Will wore a dark-gray sweatshirt, his face nearly hidden in its hood. “Hang on,” he said to the room in general. “My mom, yeah.”

Meg understood that he was using a hands-free phone. No doubt it was the newest, tiniest, most advanced gadget available. She swore that half the time she didn’t know if her children were talking—or listening, for that matter—to her, to one another, or to someone else entirely on a cell phone or computer. Much to her chagrin, her husband aided and abetted the children’s desire to be up on the latest electronic everything. It seemed as if he came home every other week with an updated version of some gizmo or other. The stuff just kept changing, rendering the previous purchases obsolete, but no one besides her seemed to mind. Though lately, she reflected, she hadn’t seen the usual parade of new electronic toys, so perhaps James had heeded her protests.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345523784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345523785
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Amy Leemon VINE VOICE on October 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The beginning of this book is chaotic with images of a family totally consumed with pursuing the American dream. James is always at work and 2 of the children, Lizzie and Will, are totally obnoxious. Sam who is 9 is nervous and fearful. Meg tries to hold it all together but that proves impossible when she finds that James actually was fired months ago and was only pretending to go to work. He then invested all of their money in a scheme which fell through. They have lost everything, including their house. They are out of options and will have to go to live with Meg's very difficult parents.

But the rest of the book is a peaceful, gentle read. On the way to Homer, New York with all their belongings in the car with them, they have an accident and an Amish family takes them in. The differences between this unhappy crazed family and the gentle Amish is dramatic. It will take at least a week for their car to be fixed and somehow they will have to adjust to a life where even electricity is a luxury they don't have.

I felt a sense of peace reading this book. The gentleness and warmth and inner happiness of the Amish shone through. It all seemed very real to me.

This book is a keeper.
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Format: Hardcover
What seems like centuries ago, but was really decades, ladies' magazines routinely published holiday stories much in the vein of An Amish Christmas, albeit with fewer words. Though it can be read in a couple of sittings, this is a cautionary tale of Americans living beyond their means and losing the souls of their children in the bargain. Meg Hobart is a full-time mother who makes color-coded lists of her children's schedules and buries her head in the sand when faced with family finances. Her husband, James, is a powerhouse, handsome, driven, proving for his family far beyond what is necessary- until it's all gone. Through a series of bad decisions, the family's entire financial foundation drops away, yielding bickering teenagers, a furious wife and an intractable future with scornful, I-told-you-so in-laws.

An accident in Pennsylvania propels the tribe into the bosom of an Amish family, whose old world values are a sharp contrast to the Hobart's method of conflict resolution. Although Lizzie, 15, and Will, 13, react predictably to their "confinement" in another century, Nine-year-old Sam easily adapts as Meg and James face one another without the material cushion to deflect her rage or his obtuse denial. Like a warm blanket, the troubles of modern life are folded into the simple lifestyle and easy camaraderie of the Lutz family, a chance for renewal and reinvention for the ailing Hobarts.

Ignoring Meg's complicity in the disaster and the horrendous behavior of the spoiled teens, An Amish Christmas is about second chances, transcending the chains of materialism in favor of a more substantial future.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'll admit that just reading the first chapter gave me the (incorrect) impression that these characters would wind one into a knot. Wealthy, materialistic, spoilt, and shallow, the family irritated me immensely. Today, with so many people in financial straits, the tragedy they face is all too common - yet I had (again incorrectly) expected a tale of miraculous transformation, where they would not want any but the simplest life. We are all so busy playing at that we want nothing now that I doubt that would be appealing. :)

I have read other books on Amish themes recently, and this one stands out in that, though the gentle and generous Amish characters indeed are of help to the main characters, there is no magical transformation. The characters are believable, their progress (and setbacks) understandable and realistic.

Though it is not a great literary work, and the style of writing seems more 'young adult' than classic, the combination of depth and simplicity make this a fine work to place in a book lover's stocking this Christmas.
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The motherly and domestically minded Meg Hobart has it all: the big house, the BMW, a strapping but handsome husband with a high-powered job, three beautiful children, and time to dedicate to whatever pleases her. While her husband James is the breadwinner, Meg is the homemaker who keeps both the home and the family's schedule running on a consistent basis. Meg has three children who she dotes on constantly, pandering to their every need. While she has three children, Lizzie and Will, the two eldest are exceedingly spoiled and selfish. Her youngest son, Sam is the only one in the family treating her with great affection and respect.

The story opens in October on Halloween night as Meg busies herself with baking and pondering over the fact none of her children seem interested in the holiday. On that very same night, James comes home in what seems to be some sort of melancholy frenzy. As time passes, she observes him and notices immediately how he is acting strangely but can't quite put her finger on it. Her husband, who used to be so loving and attentive has become abrasive and unapproachable. Despite the change, she goes through her everyday minutiae with her children: cooking dinner, cleaning, and maintaining her family's schedule. It seems like everything is ordinary except for her husband.

When Thanksgiving day rolls around, James finally comes out with it. He frantically explains to Meg that they are ruined financially. Back in August he lost his job and ever since then, he has been going along with the charade of hastening off to work everyday. What he would really be doing was go hang out at Starbucks, go for long walks, and lazing about. To make matters worse, James states that there is more to his infractions than he has revealed thus far.
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