It’s been fourteen years since Gideon Miller ran away from his Amish community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a boy of sixteen. Gideon arrives in the Smoky Mountains town of Twin Branches and settles in at the local auto mechanic's garage. He meets a host of interesting characters –the most recent acquaintances are Kiki, an autistic teen, and her sister Mari. Known as the "Getaway Savior" he helps other Amish boys and girls relocate to life in modern America.
On day the phone rings. On the other end is his brother Moriah calling from Florida. Of course Gideon welcomes his brother to stay with him and offers him a job. But Moriah is caught in a web which ends in his death and forces Gideon to return to the town of his youth, with his brother’s body in the back of a hearse and Mari and Kiki at his side. He must face not only the community he ran away from years ago but also his own web of bitterness. Will he be able to give his anger over to God and forgive his father?
This is the first book I have read by Alice J. Wisler, even though I have been following her blog for some time. And I think I just might have to go download every one of her books. It was that good. To say I love this book would be an understatement.
From the first page I was in love with Kiki. Maybe it's because I have an autistic son so much like her, maybe it was just the honesty her character was written with. From the moment she rides her bike over Gideon's wet pavement, till she invites him to be her guest at school, I was pulling for her. Maybe it is the way Ms. Wisler wrote her character. Doing justice to her and her intelligence, while portraying the struggles she faced as a high functioning autistic teen. In fact Kiki was the glue that bonded all the characters together . Without her the story would have been incomplete.
In all honesty I loved everyone of the characters. Ms. Wisler brought together an eclectic cast of characters from all walks of life and cultures. And they became family. They reminded us of the way God wants us to treat people. And that brings me to my next point. This is the kind of spiritual book I love. Understated and not pushy. Mari's faith is as much the center point of the book as Giddeon's role in helping his Amish brethren. But she shares it in such a simple and pure way you never feel like she is preaching. It blends in and feels natural to the story. Another character to bond with.
The book is real and does not shy away from the dangers that face the Amish as they adjust to mainstream life. She does not sugar coat anything. Her characters have to deal with death, drug abuse, physical abuse, mental illness, and prejudice. They have to face the past they thought they left behind and make peace with it. They redefine their families, and their faith in God.
Their was a couple of unexpected plot twists that came up on me, which I really don't want to give away. But even though I thought I had Moriah's number when he first appeared, I was still able to find empathy for him and his complicated relationship with Gideon. I also love the unexpected turn Kiki and Angela's relationship took. Kiki was a teacher to so many, in so many varied ways.
Still Life in Shadows was just an amazing book that I could not put down. You could feel the varied life experiences and devote faith that Alice J. Wisler has just flowing from her prose. This one is staying with me for a long time, and is a certain re-read.
Alice J. Wisler is a public speaker, advocate, fundraiser, and the author of many contemporary novels including How Sweet It Is and Rain Song, a Christy Award finalist. She has been a guest on several radio and TV programs to promote her self-published cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle. She has a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Mennonite University and has traveled the world in jobs that minister to people. Alice and her family live in Durham, North Carolina.
You can find Alice J Wisler on Goodreads and Amazon.com