“Dear Emily, Remember how I used to say that when I died, I wanted to be remembered as a godly woman? I almost gave that up this winter . . .” Writing letters home to her sister Emily is Hannah Zartman’s lifeline. It’s 1798, and Hannah’s life no longer bears a speck of resemblance to the affluent city life she left behind to marry Georg, a Hessian mercenary turned colonist. Hannah can milk a cow, deliver piglets, churn butter, quilt and spin, and even shoot a bear should the need arise, as she tends the land and the daily needs of nine rambunctious children in a rustic Pennsylvania log cabin. But this year, harder things are pressing from every side, shaking Hannah’s commitment to the harsh frontier life she has chosen and to the man she loves. As the Zartmans grieve an agonizing loss and await the birth of another mouth to feed, their farm is on the brink of financial disaster. And tough times have a way of exposing Hannah and Georg’s shortcomings as marriage partners. When put to the test and tempted to run, can Hannah hold fast to her family and her faith? Pouring out her everyday cares through her pen, will she find the strength, not only to plow through the demands of life in early America, but to plant a family legacy that will forever testify to God’s providence in the worst of times? In her award-winning debut novel, Letters to Emily, Miriam Ilgenfritz stitches a heartwarming tapestry of early-American countryfolk and the faith traditions that shaped and sustained them.
Farm life, birthing pigs, boiling clothing, fighting off bears all come alive in this heartwarming story of a woman struggling to adjust to marriage and frontier life. Hannah’s raw honesty with herself and her feelings about her husband will endear her to readers as they relate to the challenges life throws her way. Her relationship with her husband is portrayed with a nice balance of love, tenderness, realistic frustration and angst as they work through their differences. Whether you live on a farm or big city, life isn’t fairy tale perfect and without the grounding of faith as a compass, tragedy can send relationships spinning. I love how the author grounds the characters in faith, yet keeps them brutally real.
Superb imagery transports you to life on a wilderness farm in the 1800’s. The good, bad and ugly all vividly captured by the author. I could almost smell Thanksgiving dinner as the family gathered in the small cabin to celebrate. This story is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride as Hannah experiences joy, love, anger, frustration and desperate grief in her journey to find peace with her decisions, but isn’t that true for all of us?