Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Courting Miss Amsel was the perfect Easter read to take to my favourite little market/coffeeshop in my hometown for the long weekend. It was definitely a cozy book and wills in the spring with its colourful world and warm-fuzzy feelings. We Christians LOVE our one-room-schoolhouse-marm stories and Ms. Edythe Amsel was the perfect match for the delightful, rambunctious and high spirit litter of children she was supplied with. She had the spunk and innovation of a teacher like Anne’s Miss Stacey ( see Anne of Green Gables) even when pestered by an older, mischevious student ( see Lundy Taylor in Catherine Marshall’s Christy). She met each challenge head on and with a surprisingly independent intelligence all while ironing out wrinkles in her personal life, learning to reconcile her past with her promising future and drawing closer to a God she had never learned to lean on.
Two of Miss Amsel’s favourite students ( and the reader will learn why when they encounter these endearing boys), are the blonde-curled nephews of upstanding workman Joel Townsend: a husky, kind-hearted man who raises his orphaned nephews as if they are his own. There are many touching scenes developing this family dynamic. When Joel sees how deeply and genuinely Edythe cares for his charges and how the sun catches the glistening lines of her well-manicured hair, he falls promptly in love. Circumstances, misunderstandings and timidity keep them both from acknowledging their feelings for one another, though the romance blossoms, slowly, swiftly and gradually with a knowing wink at the reader who is eons ahead: waiting for the clueless lovers to catch up.
One of the most interesting strands of the novel was Edythe’s burgeoning interest in feminine equality: especially pertaining acts forbidding women to own land. At one point, she causes more than bit of a kerfuffle with the town council when she is inspired to take her students to hear the famed Susan Anthony speak. If I have one criticism about the book, it is that this wasn’t pursued more ( however, Edythe’s growing interest and passion is left high and prospective at the end--- and perhaps, someday, Sawyer could think of writing a sequel). I completely related with Joel and his desire to find a mother for his boys in the same way I understood Edythe’s conflicts and crises of faith. This was a solid, engaging read with lots of historical anecdotes and tidbits painting an accurate picture of a young teacher in the latter 19th Century. In my opinion, this is Kim Vogel Sawyer’s strongest offering to date.
My thanks to Bethany House for the review copy