What if? What if a Plain family living in the state’s only Amish district in the far reaches of south Texas encountered two young, half starved, illegal immigrant children on their property? That is the dropping off point for The Saddle Maker’s Son, my newest release and the last book in the Amish of Bee County series.
I was drawn to this question, in part, because I spent a year and a half in Costa Rica as a student at the university in the late seventies (yes, I’m old!). At that time, Costa Rica was a gathering place for political refugees from Central and South America. I lived in a house with refugees from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. I also dated a man from El Salvador who had been a political prisoner in his country where he suffered torture at the hands of his government.
Fast forward forty years later, and I’m now living in South Texas where I regularly see newspaper articles about the thousands of unaccompanied children who have flooded through the Texas-Mexico border to this region and all the challenges that come with dealing with that influx. Bee County and the Amish District are directly in that path. It was a story that begged to be explored.
But it wasn’t easy. I feared that folks would take a political view of my story. This wasn’t about politics. It was about what we are called to do as Christians. Tobias and Rebekah are torn between the laws of the nation in which they live and what they believe is their Christian duty to help others. They see Lupe and Diego as children much like the ones in their families. They help us see them in that same light. Not as political pawns, but children like our own.
Writing what essentially are three different cultures—Amish, Salvadoran, and “Englisch”—added to the challenge. I sprinkled in Spanish with the Pennsylvania Dutch for flavor. Researching Salvadoran toys and games proved to be fun. Picking out recipes for Lupe to show to her new Plain friends was also a treat. (Readers will find those recipes at the end of the book.)
The fact that I didn’t know anything about saddle making added to the tall order of writing this book. I spent an afternoon with a custom saddle maker in a nearby town in the Texas Hill Country. Tom Kline is a former cowboy who opened up his shop to me and showed me how he takes “a whole cow and a sheep” and makes a saddle.
I can’t forget the essential ingredient: romance. The story offered the opportunity for two people to work together to solve a problem and at the same time heal themselves so they can experience the joy of love.
The results are a story with a unique flavor and perspective. One that I hope readers will enjoy and that will make them think long after they turn that last page. What would Jesus do? What would they do?
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Kelly Irvin is the author of The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. It follows The Bishop’s Son. The series debuted with The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
A former newspaper reporter and public relations professional, Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors.