Since I began writing Amish fiction in 2010, I’ve made a number of discoveries about the Amish life that have found their echoes in my own. Like quilting—the designs and the sheer talent of the Amish women! And simplifying life—focusing on friends and family rather than on “getting ahead.” And most important, the reminder of the way women can work together to support and help one another. After I completed the Amish Quilt trilogy and started researching the Healing Grace series, I made another discovery:
Our wild backyard, which we always vaguely meant to landscape but never quite got around to, is full of medicine.
So is the Lancaster County acreage of my new heroine, Sarah Yoder, in Herb of Grace, who is training to be a Dokterfraa—literally, “doctor woman”— continuing the tradition of mostly female-managed herbal medicine in the Amish community. But to write about her discoveries (and mistakes, yikes!) I had to know something about herbal medicine myself. I took a six-week class from a pair of local herbalists and had my eyes opened to the bounty of plants and flowers that can help cure people’s ailments. Of course, they got written into the series!
A little boy suffers from sunburn, so Sarah squishes up chickweed and packs the gooey mess on his skin. Ahhh, instant relief—just as it gave a man at a dinner party I attended, where I’m sure my hostess thought I’d lost my mind as I treated a man suffering from sunburn.
A woman in Herb of Grace struggles with mild depression, so Sarah blends a tincture containing ingredients that lift the spirits and build the immune system. I tried the cures on myself first, of course, and am delighted to discover that they really work.
Which brings me back to the resonance I find in the Amish life. Closeness to the land is a vital part of the Amish culture because it helps bring a person closer to God. What better way to be reminded of God’s care than to look around at the plants He has provided? In Herb of Grace, Sarah and her mentor Ruth Lehman (a character from my Amish Quilt trilogy) consider both the physical effect of the cure and the spiritual effect—which in turn play into the plot. The book grows organically.
And over the three books in the Healing Grace series, Sarah makes some mistakes and maybe even sticks her nose in where she should let God handle things instead. But she learns about herself and about her patients with each case … and most important, she learns about the love of her heavenly Father and His care for her.
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 made her own clothes, and she perfected the art of the French braid. 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.
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.
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