The Scent of Cherry Blossoms – Review

I don’t normally care for romances but I chose this one because of the Amish twist.  The Amish fascinate and inspire me.  Ms. Woodsmall does an excellent job of introducing and acquainting us with her main characters.  She is generous with information about them and their backgrounds.  She paints pictures of landscapes and situations that play like a movie in the imagination.

Annie comes from a broken Old Order Mennonite home in which her mother has struggled to raise several children amid the shame of her husband abandoning the family.  Aden’s Old Order Amish father and brother, Roman, were injured in a farming accident which left them unable to continue to provide for the family in quite the same way as before.  Annie’s struggles with her mother are emotionally charged.  Roman’s struggle to come to terms with his disability rings very true.  The way these people of faith handle their challenges and ultimately turn to their Creator to help and heal them is inspiring.  The problem of forbidden love between childhood friends Aden and Annie is resolved amid surprising twists and conflicts.

This is just a good old story, with characters who are real people with real problems, which today’s Old Order families are not immune to.  They have their warts and their roses (or should I say cherry blossoms?) and it is inspiring to see them grow and improve in the course of resolving their problems.  I really enjoyed this book. It’s a pleasant escape to Amish country and a “simpler” life.

Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning and New York Times Bestselling author.  She has written several other books, including When the Soul Mends and Plain Wisdom.  Her friendships with Amish and Mennonites began in childhood and continue to this day.  She homeschooled her children as they were growing up.

Cassandra Campbell has recorded over 100 audiobooks and is an accomplished actress and high school teacher.  Her narration is clear and expressive without distracting from the story.

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, “A romance from the heart of Amish country”, by Cindy Woodsmall, copyright 2012, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell is available from  Christian Audio for $10.98.

22 chapters, 335 minutes (6 hours)

I would like to thank Christian Audio, for providing me with a free review copy of this audiobook.  No other compensation was received for this review.

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Cultural Diversity

Several recent events have given me cause to be grateful for our cultural diversity here in the United States.

Once again, St. Patrick’s day came and went, this year, with more meaning to me.  I had watched the movie  “St. Patrick, The Irish Legend” and subsequently did a little further research on this beloved saint.  I’m not so much on corned beef and cabbage, but my Irish heritage has a bit more meaning when I contemplate the sacrificial love with which Patrick won over the Irish people, and stayed with them to continue to lead them to Jesus.

I read “Hopi Summer” by Carolyn O’Bagy Davis for book club.  The story is about a Massachusetts family who toured the U.S. one year in the late 1920’s, spending a lengthy time on the Hopi mesas in Arizona.  (The book was the Arizona One Book winner for 2011).  They struck up a friendship with several Hopi families which lasted their lifetimes, and left behind a wealth of photographs and correspondence which serves to chronicle that moment in American history.

I attended a Presentation celebration for a young Mexican friend.  At the age of 3 or 4, a Mexican child is “presented” to Jesus and Our Blessed Mother at a special Mass, followed by feasting, etc.  The Mass was very simple, the child dressed like a princess, knowing it was her special day, and taking all the ceremony and blessing very seriously.

I watched “The Singing Revolution”, a documentary about the non-violent Estonian revolution and their ultimate break from Communist oppression in the late 1990’s.  Through their persistent preservation of their culture of singing, the Estonians eventually won worldwide support in their cause to liberate themselves from the USSR.

In the past, groups of immigrants would form their own close communities and preserve their language, culture and tradition.  Not so much any more.  Oh, we can still find tiny pockets of Polish, Amish, Native American and others.  But mostly we really have to search them out.  There is so much beauty in each different cultural tradition. Yes, we have our Sacramental celebrations, but the Mexican Presentation and Quincenera are beautiful additional reminders to continue to dedicate our lives to the Lord.  The Polish blessing of the food  before the Easter Vigil, reminds us that all we have comes from God, and Jesus lived and died that we might have it more fully.  Shrove Tuesday (before it became a corrupted form of Mardi Gras) is the day before the start of Lent, when English-speaking immigrants would feast on foods rich with fats, sugars and eggs, before giving them up for Lent.  The Swedes celebrate the feast of St. Lucia in December, with a teenage girl portraying the saint, adorned with a crown of candles and dressed in white; the candles symbolizing the fire that would not consume the saint when she was condemned to be burned.  If you’ve had a chance to celebrate Passover, just as Jesus and the Apostles did, maybe you’ve experienced the mystical connection between the Jewish and Christian celebrations.

Americans are as guilty as any other country of trying to eradicate the customs and traditions of our many different citizens. A great deal of the Native American culture has been lost through earlier governmental intervention, much of which was done in the name of Christianity. Somehow, I don’t think Christ would approve.

This Lent, instead of or in addition to giving up some thing, maybe we can try to give up some attitude that prevents us from being more Christ-like.  I promise, once you get started, there is no end.  We are forever slipping back into negative thought patterns.  But as we confess our weakness and firmly resolve to try again, little by little we become more the children God created us to be.  And like little children, we can accept and celebrate our wonderful cultural diversity.

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