His Guilt: Shelly Shepard Gray
Stereotyping people is not something new. All too often people prejudge others by their race, skin, color and nationality. But, sometimes when someone is wrongly accused, exonerated of a crime they did not commit that conviction or wrongdoings hangs over their head as an albatross. What would you life to forget? What are the memories that linger in your mind and that you hope one day will be permanently erased? Are these memories so terrible that you can’t learn from them and move on? What about these memories haunt you and can you erase them with a ritual release? Can you change what others think about you because you left and then returned hoping to start anew? Can you truly become someone better than you were before? Mark Fisher is about to return to Horse Cave a small Amish town filled with people some who are forgiving and others who might never let go of his past reminding him of injuring someone he never would or did harm. How long will he live with what the author titles as HIS GUILT?
Mark has returned and is working in a nursery helping Henry Lehmann the owner with the lifting, hard work and dealing with customers. Working along side of him and not sure at first how to react to his presence is Waneta Cain. Rumors fly and things spiral out of control as some of Neeta’s friends shun her for being kind to Mark. But, her parents think he deserves a chance even though things are about to happen to make her question her feelings and thoughts about him. When one girl is assaulted and he is wrongly accused who assaulted Amy Weaver and left her for dead? What about her fiancé, Abraham would walk her home and not leave her alone but when Neeta tries to help a neighbor in her garden why does she tell her to leave knowing her husband will only take out his anger on her for daring to talk to anyone and asking for help. This story brings to light abuse not only physical but verbal when someone close to the town decides to take action against anyone he feels does not adhere to the proper rules of behavior and Amish ways. Neeta is strong willed and agrees to let Mark court her and as she visits Amy things get heated and words are said making them draw apart. Lori Weaver also verbalized that she thinks Mark is behind the attack and she pushed Neeta away as she is the next victim of the attacker who feels she needs to be taught a lesson or two. Finding him in her house after coming home from the diner and learning that she is becoming close to Deputy Beck, this sick individual once again takes matters into his own hands.
Calvin Fisher is Mark’s brother who has been away and in trouble for ten years. Returning to Horse Cave does not make Mark happy and seeing him the first time he does not recognize him. Both brought up by parents who abused them and took little interest in either one, Calvin winds up in jail and in trouble and returning to his hometown he hoped to reconnect with Mark but how? Things get dicey and someone is next in the attackers eyes as everyone is told to walk in groups and when Neeta’s parents treat Mark like a member of the family but when the attacker finds Neeta alone and decides to take her as his next victim will anyone find her before it’s too late? The community is up in arms and everyone wants something to be done, as one woman is afraid to speak out and speak up while others fall prey to this sick person’s attacks. Mr. Lehmann reminds Neeta not to walk alone anymore but when her bike has two flats and she sees no other way the chance she takes might cost her much more. Once again author Shelley Shepard Gray takes a town filled with people who are kind, forgiving and loyal to each other and reminds us of how the world should be and why this small town in Hart County could and should be the model for everyone’s town or city to follow. Will Neeta and Mark realize they belong together? Will he decide since he’s being accused, brought in by the police for questioning and not considered part of the community, to leave and never come back? The author teachers us much about friendship and even about canning and gardening for those who love to create their own gardens and plant their own vegetables. She even introduces us to quilting and sewing as many of these Amish girls are taught these things before they are married. Can the people change their impression of Mark Fisher? Was Neeta right in feeling she needed to keep her guard up around him? When getting to know him she finally lightens up but when Lori and Amy are attacked will she blame him? My favorite line in the book is the proverb: Whatever your past has been, you have a spotless future? What happens at the end will surprise readers, as Mark and Calvin have to decide if they will ever become the only family they have? When Neeta is in trouble you won’t believe who tries to save her and why? Sometimes you have to let go of the past and deal with the positive in the present as Mark learns it’s time to give up on what you might call is HIS GUILT!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine