Welcome to the early days of Quakers in Indiana! One of the things I enjoyed about this 4-in-1 collection of novellas was how this religious group fit into the politics of their times. I’m not sure this was an intentional theme running through but, to me, it helped set the stage.
‘Plain’ language consists of a certain rhythm of speaking. Quakers use a lot of thees and thous, and refer to each other as Friend Joseph or whatever. At times I found the dialect a bit overwhelming. I think it’s hard to be true to speech patterns without overdoing it.
The Quakers of New Garden is a collection of four stories centering around various generations of the Wall family starting in 1808 in Greensborough, NC, with their assistance in birthing a new city and tracing their migration to the non-slave state of Indiana. There, they face new struggles in their involvement with the underground railroad leading up to the Civil War, and cling to the plain ways of tradition and faith for 200 years until present day when a new generation is tempted to abandon plainness and step out in faith to a new life and a new love.
Let me introduce you to the four authors and their individual novellas.In the first novella, “New Garden’s Hope” by Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Ruth Payne is stunned and cannot understand why Josiah Wall would ask to postpone their wedding date. . .for the second time. Heartbroken, she cancels their engagement. Obviously he does not love her as much as she loves him. Josiah is both a perfectionist and a political activist. He wants the house he’s built for Ruth to be furnished before they wed, and a lot of his time is taken up with standing against Governor James Madison’s campaign–a man who happens to be married to Ruth’s aunt.
What is the hope that will make Ruth and Josiah see that their love is strong enough, no matter what?
The second novella, “New Garden’s Crossroads,” is by debut author Ann E. Schrock. It centers around the famous Levi Coffin House in Newport, Indiana, which was one of the main stations on the Underground Railway for runaway slaves seeking freedom. Ann chose to pit a young female relative of the Coffins, Deborah Wall, against a bounty hunter who’d left his Quaker roots far behind. When the bounty hunter tries to cross a roaring creek behind escaping slaves and is tossed from his horse, the Coffin family takes him in and sees to his recovery. Deborah, quite frankly, would rather care for the horse, but as Nathaniel Fox softens, so does her heart.
As the house sits at a crossroads, so do Deborah and Nathaniel’s hearts. Is he willing to return to the Quaker way? And dare she leave it, if he doesn’t?In “New Garden’s Hope,” author Claire Sanders introduces us to orphaned Leah Wall, who, at 24, is long on the shelf. Her uncle has spared no love for her and informs her that he’s agreed to her marriage to Caleb Whitaker, a nonQuaker man she’s never met. Widowed, he needs a wife to care for his two children while he returns to his regiment in the Civil War. But Leah didn’t know he’d planned for her to be a wife in name only. Caleb leaves for the war the morning after their wedding, while Leah struggles to make friends with his children and establish her bee hives on the new property.
When he’s injured, Leah has her chance to show him that she’s ready for love. But is Caleb? Are his children?The final story in the collection, “New Garden’s Conversion,” is a contemporary novella. Author Susette Williams introduces us to Catherine Wall, the nurse on duty when D-Dog, a local gang member, is brought into the hospital with gunshot wounds. There she meets Jaidon Taylor, a Christian guy who runs an outreach program into gangland. Catherine is intrigued by Jaidon’s mission and soon becomes a regular volunteer at the outreach program. It’s a great match for a Quaker, as they’re against violence in any way. If only her grandfather hadn’t elicited a promise from her that she’d marry within the Quaker faith, she’d be tempted to take Jaidon’s growing affection more seriously. It’s not until gang activity hits closer to home that Catherine and Jaidon see things more clearly.
I’ve been interested in the Quakers since I read a Reader’s Digest condensed version of I Take Thee, Serenity many years ago. I enjoyed this collection of novellas quite a lot, especially seeing how the sect interacted with various turning points in American history.
I received an e-copy of this collection for review from NetGalley. Opinions, as always, are mine alone.