An act of carelessness caused the lives of five Amish men in a fire at Charm’s lumber mill. Five lives were lost and the dynamics of the town, the people living in this special place and their relationships were torn apart and severed. Darla Kurtz and Lukas Kinsinger were best friends until this happened. Her father, John Kurtz worked at the lumber mill owned by Lukas’s father who almost lost his life in this fire. But, the town handles things in their own way and Darla gets the brunt of their anger as many accuse her of living her life, taking care of her sisters and brother plus enduring the wrath of Aaron the brother who should have stepped up to care for her family instead of leaving it all to her. Each day of her life she relives the tragedy while working at the post office and receiving visits from someone whose only goal is to hurt her, belittle her and pass blame making Darla want to hide, cower but she does not. Standing her own ground against Mary’s rants who also lost someone close to her in the fire, Darla is no match for her words until something changes.
Lukas has always cared for Darla and when he tries to rekindle their friendship he discovers a secret related to her brother that more than angers him and causes him to react in a way that does not please his family or hers. Caring for his family with the help of his sister Rebecca handling the office, his brother Levi and precious Amelia who cares for the home, they manage to deal with the loss of their father but things get harder for Darla.
Lukas is still mourning the death of his father but when he overhears Mary ranting and others do too he decides to take action. Added in her brother Aaron seems to be handling the death in a different way and has decided to take it out on Darla and his sisters with physical punishment. Anger, fear, resentment and hate take over this young Amish man rather than forgiveness and understanding as he proposes to Hope thinking that might be the solution to his problems working her farm and leaving the rest to Darla.
Lukas too has great stress and responsibilities but when push comes to shove he steps up in many ways besides taking on the lumber mill, reminding his sisters that he appreciates them and finding himself the head of the family. The changes in his relationships are many especially with Darla and when he realizes his feelings he tries to mend the ways but it will take more than talking to fix everything as he observes many changes within her brother, her family and his own.
Hannah Eicher is an amazing young girl who has chosen to work for the Ross family as their nanny. Loving to work with the family and caring for Christopher give her a purpose to get up in the morning as she lost her Paul, the man she cared for in the fire. But, things drastically get more difficult as she encounters Aaron, Darla’s brother whose anger goes so deep and far that he attacks her giving her bruises and a black eye. But, Ross a young English man that lives near by rescues Hannah and his feelings for her are more than just friendship. Friendships are tested and families are torn apart and yet Lukas will not give up on Darla even though she is stubborn and wants to handle her brother on her own. Will the two families come together or will they remain ripped apart?
Charm, Ohio, is a real place and the author describes it in vivid language making readers want to go and visit. The tragic accident is the catalyst in the story and the main theme that will either keep everyone separated or finally joined as one. The fire was declared an accident and each side seems to be blaming someone they loved for the rag dampened by flammable liquid was tossed into a dumpster filled with wood scraps and hot metal that had been left heating a whole day and caught fire. No one was blamed both some thought it was Darla’s father that caused the fire while others blamed it on the owners and lack of enough safety rules or precautions in place.
When Mary continues her ranting while stating she needed to purchase stamps another customer comes to Darla’s defense. Speaking to his sister Rebecca and setting her straight about his feelings for Darla and learning about what Mary has been doing the scene in the post office is quite compelling and finally allows Darla to know that she is no longer alone. But, when Aaron attacks Hannah how will they deal with it and who will Lukas take to speak with him and how will he react? When unfortunate things happen we often think that God has turned away from us instead of welcoming the open arms that are there to help us through it. Listening to Aaron as he talks with Simon, Lukas, and Roman in the barn he begins to realize the depth of his anger and hopefully he just might seek the help to pull through.
The way the community bans together and what the family Hannah works for did for her is amazing. Melissa the child’s mother was kind, understanding and even felt that she should have stayed with Hannah instead of going to work after she was hurt leaving her with her child to watch. But, Hannah is quite surprising and when she and Melissa decided to move their relationship up a notch to being friends, she learned about Ross and his feelings for her but will she shy away welcome it? Darla needs her income to help the family survive and if Aaron does not step up things will only get worse. A family who made a promise to their father to be the best they could be and stand up for their family was it just words or will they stand by them? A Son’s Vow: A promise made by both Aaron and Lukas to the memories of their fathers to stand by their family, work out their issues, find a happy medium with which to cope with their grief and learn the true meaning of forgiveness. Rebecca, Hannah, Amelia, Patsy, Levi, Aaron and the twins are all individual characters with distinct personalities that come through as kind, opinionated, hardheaded, angry and understanding in their own way. When Mary is confronted will she ever realize that there are people who are not trying to push her away but help her deal with her loss? Anger often gets in the way of seeing clearing and the author brings this out many times in this novel as well as the ability to forgive yourself first before asking others for forgiveness too. When Aaron decides to break off his engagement with Hope what she does will bring tears to you eyes and admirations for her in your heart. An ending that will surprise readers and a question that Lukas can’t wait to ask Darla and the way he asks it and where will make you smile. A Son’s Vow: A five star read and definitely one that teaches many lessons throughout the novel: Love, family loyalties, relationships, respect, abuse, understanding and most of all forgiveness. A novel that only author Shelly Shepard Gray would pen from her personal experiences and her love for Charm.
Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine