Enjoy this excerpt from Adina Senft’s The Highest Mountain. Be sure to enter below for your chance to win one of three copies!
Amanda slept in, not until five in her own time zone, but this one, worn out from the previous day. No one was awake yet. She said her prayers in the cool gray dawn, then put on her purple dress in preparation for a day of toilets and dusting log walls. Something propelled her outside—maybe to get a little space between herself and the three sleeping girls in the cabin. Or maybe she simply needed some time alone with the One who had created the magnificence rising up all around her.
She hadn’t been able to see much in the dark last night. But as she slipped out of the door, the first thing she saw was the sheer grandeur of the house. And this was the back of it! But dwarfing even the biggest house she’d ever seen were the mountains behind her, rearing up into a sky that was turning from cobalt to azure to sheer blue, even as she watched. The ranch was situated on the western slope of one range, and looked across the Wet Mountain Valley to the eastern slope of another. The rising sun left them in shadow for now while it lit the faraway slopes of the Sangre de Cristo, turning them gold and green and distant blue.
At her back, the scrubby trees that Simon had called piñon pines rose on the slopes, and in the hush before the day began, she could hear the rush of Lost Creek. She’d always found solace in the creek bed at home. Maybe in the whisper of water, she’d hear that still small voice again.
She left the staff cabins behind her, following a path that meandered over the face of the hill in the direction of the sound of water. Now and again the way was punctuated by a small staircase of rock built into the steep parts, or a log that held up the hillside where it was muddy. Lizards darted away from her feet, and birds twittered in the pines. A hundred feet up, a huge bird glided and tilted in the updraft, no doubt scanning the ground below for its breakfast.
How different this was from Lancaster County! At first glance it looked bare and bleak and forbidding. But when you stopped to take it in—when you just stopped—you could smell the spicy scent of those pines, draw the dry air into your lungs, and let the sound of the wind and the feel of the coolness spilling down the slope refresh your soul.
She found the waterfall a few blissful minutes later, chattering out of a deep rocky crevice, then widening into the long meadow down across the road in front of the house, where it flowed away to the south. Two tiny figures were walking out to its banks—fly fishermen. Guests, no doubt, up at the crack of dawn to see if they could pull some brook trout out of the water.
Amanda smiled. Dat loved to fish whenever he had a spare hour—though at this time of day he was usually in the milking parlor with the cows.
“There’s a smile to brighten the day before the sun comes.”
Amanda whirled to see a man coming up the road below—an Amish man. He had stopped his big Percheron pulling the market wagon in the middle of the one-lane road and because of the noise of the waterfall, she hadn’t even heard them approach.
“I think you’re too far away to see whether I smile or not.” How good it felt good to speak Deitsch, the language of home and family! She’d been speaking English for Hannah’s sake for days.
He seemed to be a big man, from what she could tell from fifty feet above, with broad shoulders under a burgundy shirt and brown canvas jacket. His brown broadfall pants were held up by black suspenders, and his face was clean shaven.
A single man. Not that it mattered to her. Men tended not to pay her any mind, and that was fine. The one God intended for her would pay attention, and until that time she simply needed to tend her spiritual garden and try not to feel it when she was the oldest young person in any group of Youngie.
Easier said than done, most of the time.
“My name is Joshua King, and these are my brothers Peter and Moses.” Two boys in their early teens were sitting on the back of the wagon, which was full of something under a tarpaulin. Both boys waved, and Amanda waved back.
“I’m Amanda Yoder, from Willow Creek in Lancaster County,” she called. “We just came yesterday, to work here.”
“We? Did your family come, too?”
Did he always conduct conversations at a distance, hallooing across the wilderness as though he was alone and no one would hear him? “My nephew, and three of our friends.”
“Dei bruderskind? Yoder? Are you related to Simon Yoder? He was here last year, with a friend of his.”
“Ja,” she said. “He is my brother’s child.”
“You look far too young to be Simon’s Aendi,” Joshua King said firmly. “You must be nearly the same age.”
“Never you mind how old I am,” she said, surprising herself with her own pertness.
But it didn’t take him aback—on the contrary, he laughed. “That will teach me to get personal this early in the morning. Well, I must get on. They like their meat by six o’clock up here, so the crew can get their breakfast, and the tourists can take home their kills in neat white packages.”
So many questions crowded her tongue that she was rendered silent. He delivered meat each day by horse and wagon? Was he the butcher, then, whom Simon was to ask about the clothes? He must be. Or worked for one. Did that mean the Amish settlement was close enough for a horse to come here and back? Where they might get to church on a Sunday?
She would have to find out. About that, and a hundred other things she would need to learn if she planned to stay here. And she’d have to make up her mind about that in a hurry. Probably by the end of the day.
There were four fishermen down in the meadow now, and the sun had cleared the mountains to glitter off the water and turn the grass on the creek banks an intense shade of green. It was just past six o’clock, but if Joshua King brought supplies for the staff breakfast, did that mean they ate before the guests? In which case, she might be late already.
Amanda turned back toward the big house. And as she did, the sun broke free of the mountain, so warm and so brilliant she had to shade her eyes with her hand.
Copyright 2017 by Adina Senft
More about The Highest Mountain
“In the lowly place of prayer, God can lift you up to the highest mountain.” —Whinburg Township Amish proverb
A Colorado dude ranch is the last place that homebody Amanda Yoder would believe God wants her. But the owners have once again hired a group of Amish young people for the summer, and despite her shyness and fear of change, Amanda feels led to go with them.
Hannah Riehl has been living with her Amish family, recovering from the trauma of finding out she was kidnapped away from them as a child. But when a girl still has purple hair and a bit of an attitude, it’s hard to decide which world to live in. In Colorado, maybe she’ll be able to make up her mind—and heart—to learn the Amish ways for herself, or to leave them for an Englisch life.
Once Amanda and her friends reach Colorado, it soon becomes clear that their hard work and honesty aren’t the only things the ranch owners want. Along with making beds and wrangling horses, the Amish staff are being used as part of the owners’ advertising to attract more tourists. Worse, it seems the Amish are being actively targeted by someone in the community—and suspected of poaching wild game. Amanda and Hannah need to hold their faith closer than ever—and the way to regain their own reputations as well as that of their new Amish friends might just be found on the highest mountain.
Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church, where she was often asked by outsiders if she was Amish (the answer was no). She holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches as adjunct faculty.
Writing as Shelley Bates, she was the winner of RWA’s RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and, writing as Shelley Adina, was a Christy Award finalist in 2009. Three of her books have shortlisted for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Carol Award for book of the year.
A transplanted Canadian, Adina returns there annually to have her accent calibrated. Between books, she enjoys traveling with her husband, playing the piano and Celtic harp, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.