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1931 – Ohio
It’s 1931, and times are tough for the Miller family, who are raising eight children in the midst of the Great Depression. When Eli Miller passes away unexpectedly, and then a fire destroys their barn, Annie has no idea how she’ll make ends meet. The Amish community rallies around her and the children, as is their custom, but as days turn into weeks and then into months, Annie’s friends and neighbors return to their own routines and seem to expect Annie to do the same. Annie knows she needs to stay strong for the children and figure out a way to keep everyone warm and clothed and fed, but she is heartbroken and exhausted. She reminds herself that God will provide, but every day feels like an uphill battle.
When Annie receives a letter from a widower with six children of his own, she tries to put it out of her mind. Her critical mother reminds her that it’s too soon to start a new friendship with a man, and warns her that blending a family will be complicated. In the weeks and months to follow, Annie must learn to make her own decisions—and accept the consequences, good and bad—face her past, and embark on a new journey that will transform her and her large, complicated family. When life seems especially complicated one summer, she finds herself saying that by Christmas everything will start to come together, but she has no idea the challenges—and ultimately blessings—headed her way.
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Hester, the startlingly beautiful Native American who was rescued as an infant by an Amish couple, now lives in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She shares a house with Bappie King, another Amish woman, living their independent lives in the fast-growing mid-18th-century city. Bappie runs a highly successful stand at the downtown farmers market; Hester is Bappie’s assistant when she isn’t out in the city nursing desperately sick children and their impoverished parents with her tinctures, teas, and rubs.
And then one day, Noah comes back; Noah, the first child born to Hans and Kate Zug, the Amish couple who had welcomed Hester during their childless years.
Both Hester and Noah are refugees from this Amish family gone awry. Both were victims of Hans’ deep attraction to the lovely Hester. Two hurt souls, they have each had their own adult troubles. Noah left his family and the Amish to join the War. Hester is the widow of William King, an Amish man who was determined to possess his wife and dictate her life.
When Noah invites Hester to join him on a visit to their childhood home, Hester can no longer ignore her buried anger at her adopted father or her bitterness toward Annie, his second wife. Nor can Hester deny the tempting thrill of spending time with the steady but sensitive Noah, who since childhood showed special care for Hester.
Hester and Noah both know that the visit home will force them to face blistering questions: Can they possibly forgive their ill father, Hans, for his misplaced love for Hester and his utter neglect of Noah? Can Hester and Noah risk marriage, especially if they can’t forgive Hans? Can Hester trust herself—and Noah—enough to marry again after her failed marriage to William?
Which Way Home?
Born a Native American, but brought up Amish, Hester Zug, at age 20, flees her Amish home. Her father’s too-tender care of her has made her stepmother wildly jealous, and so Hester sets off, knowing only that she can’t stay. Hester’s natural instincts for navigating the forests in colonial Pennsylvania along with the book of medicines and remedies given to her by an aged Native American woman allow her to survive until she gets sick from drinking river water.
Twice rescued—first by matronly Indian women who find her unconscious in the woods, and then by a boy in downtown Lancaster, where she’d been left for dead by the dreaded Paxton boys—Hester finds herself in the kind, if rough, hands of Emma Ferree. Because of her wide heart, Ferree, a widow, offers her home to fugitives.
The dazzlingly beautiful Hester eventually marries an Amish man, who is more in love with the way she looks than with her heart and mind. And when that childless marriage falters, she is met one day in the fields by Running Bear, a Native American brave who has watched her for years. He asks her to marry him, giving her until wintertime to decide.
Belonging in part to two worlds, but experiencing a subtle yet clear rejection from both, Hester comes to wish that her Amish mother, Kate, had never rescued her.
Author Linda Byler shows the lovely and enduring Hester caring for others as the Amish do, with the use of Native American remedies and tinctures from the old woman’s book. Her practices raise accusations of witchcraft from the very people she sets out to help. Byler, an active member of the Amish, centers this second book in the Hester’s Hunt for Home series on two anguishing questions: Where is Hester’s heart most at home? And can she ever be married happily?
Hester on the Run
Colonial – Pennsylvania
The setting is the beginning of an Amish settlement in colonial America in the forests of eastern Pennsylvania. There, a young Amish couple, Hans and Kate Zug, are in their ninth year of marriage, still waiting to have a child. Then, one April morning, Kate finds a Native infant, wrapped in deerskin and placed next to the spring where she went to fill her water bucket.
Kate and Hans cherish Hester, despite the pointed question of Hans’s mother—“What makes you think you can raise her Amish, with her Indian blood?”
Struck by his daughter’s unusual beauty, Hans insists on choosing the fabric for her handmade dresses. And when his and Kate’s first son is born a year later, Hans despairs of his homely face and nearly bald head. In fact, Hans continues to give his fullest attention and affection to Hester, even as eight more children are born to him and Kate.
Hester glows as she grows, an unmistakable beauty both inside and out, and charms her adopted Amish community. But then, an elderly Lenape woman hands Hester a package of medicinal herbs to rout an infection that is threatening Kate’s life. A trust passes between the wizened and the youthful Native women. In that moment, Hester recognizes that she belongs to two worlds, both intent on possessing her. When Amish Indian Hester realizes that she must leave her tension-filled home for her sake and her father’s, she takes only two possessions: the leather-bound book of remedies left for her by the old Lenape woman and her memories of the Amish ways.