Thursday, August 7, 2014

Herb of Grace, by Adina Senft

Title: Herb of Grace

Series: Healing Grace

Author: Adina Senft

Publisher: FaithWords

Paperback: 320 pages

Date: August 5, 2014

About the author:
Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church and was often asked if she was Amish. (The answer was no.) She holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where she is adjunct faculty. Between books, she enjoys playing the piano and Celtic Harp and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.

About the book:
Amish widow Sarah Yoder has been struggling to raise her two teenaged sons and provide a home where family and members of her Old Order Amish church can find fellowship and friendship. Though she is close to her in-laws, lately it feels like her relationship with her boys is splintering. Her stepson Simon wants to move out west with his cousins to find work. And her youngest, Caleb, is spending far too much time over at the tumbledown home of a man who left the church long ago. Henry Byler only returned recently to Willow Creek when he inherited the family farm--under protest--and now seems caught in a struggle between the faith of his childhood and the world he's come to know.

Ruth Lehman, the local Dokterfraa, believes Sarah should use her gift for growing plants to become an herbal healer, too. Sarah is reluctant, however, uncertain if caring for others will take her away from her family--the place where she believes God wants her. But when she feels called to help members of her community, she soon discovers that the heart can be scarred as deeply as the body. As she compiles her herbs, she waits for God to do his healing work in a man who rues a harsh decision, in a lonely prodigal who has lost everything, and maybe even in a herbalist-in-training who firmly believes she will never love again.

My take:
I feel as though I have extensive knowledge on Amish books. Not because I have written some, but because I read them all the time. I have to admit, it is hard to find good ones. This one though, I feel sits right up there with the best of the best. I really enjoyed reading Herb of Grace. The author's writing style totally draws you in with the intriguing conversations that go on between the characters, the descriptions of the surroundings and just the way she brings out the personalities of all of the characters. I felt like the characters are very lighthearted compared to most of the Amish books I have read. Like Sarah (the main character), I feel as though she comes across somewhat timid, yet will do whatever it takes for her and her two boys to survive.  I also like the way the author incorporated the different uses of the herbs that are mentioned in the book.

Like most Amish books, there is a glossary in the back to help out with some of the German words. There is also a reading group guide for discussion if a couple of people are reading it and want to involve themselves in a deep discussion. I must also state that the art work is amazing. The soft warm color of the picture on the front is just what the book is like. A really great combination.

I really enjoyed reading this book and do encourage others to pick it up. Whether you are into Amish books or not, it is enjoyable and should be made a choice by all.

Herb of Grace is the first book in a series called Healing Grace. The second installment is due to come out in 2015 and will be entitled, Keys of Heaven.

MEDICAL HERBS by Adina Senft

1.                  My backyard is full of medicine cleverly disguised as weeds. What have I been pulling up all these years? Needless to say, after writing these books, I’m a little more discriminating now.  While I’m outside with my flock of rescued chickens, just a quick look around shows me California poppy, feverfew, plantain, rosemary, chickweed, dandelion, and cleavers—all of which can be used in cures.

When the flat was full, she got a piece of paper and drew a grid, with the names of the plants in the squares, and a word or two about what kind of soil and sun each one liked.

“Ruth, I don’t even know where to start.”

“It will come. Begin simply and the rest will grow from there. Folks around these parts favor certain complaints, you’ll find—burns from the stove, cuts from the lawnmower blades, head colds, stress, flu. These plants are the basics. Get them going and they’ll carry you through most problems you’ll run into.”                                                        Herb of Grace

2.                  One of the most humble weeds, the sticky one with the burrs called cleavers, is good for clearing the lymphatic system. Simply crush up several stems of the fresh plant, add in some orange calendula petals, and pour a quart of hot water over it to make a tea. Strain out the plant matter, cool, and drink it over the course of the day.

She found a moment to pull Amanda aside, and took a small package out of the pocket of her dress. “I made you some things for your skin,” she said. “Chickweed and cleaver tea—I wrote out a recipe that tastes gut—like breathing a meadow. It will clear your glands if you drink a cup every morning. And here is a jar of rose cream. Use it everywhere, not just your face.”

Amanda touched her jaw, where a couple of blemishes had appeared, her gaze falling self-consciously. “Is it that bad?”

Sarah gave her a squeeze. “Of course not. But there is nothing wrong with using the plants God gave us to make things better.”    Keys of Heaven

3.                  My chiropractor, Harriet Segelcke, who is also deeply interested in homeopathic medicine, told me a simple cure for gout—a painful condition where uric acid forms crystals in the joints (often the toes). A glass or two of black cherry juice per day over a week will dissolve the crystals and relieve the pain. Of course, once it’s gone, it would be helpful to look into what’s going wrong in the diet to cause it in the first place.

Oran had stopped now, and was fiddling with the straps on the gray-sided buggy sitting next in line for repairs. “Medication ain’t so strange,” he muttered just loudly enough for her to hear. “It’s putting that burden on the church for no reason I can’t abide. Stuff’s expensive.”

“No, it isn’t,” she chirped. “You can find it at the supermarket. Sometimes you can get it on sale for a dollar fifty-nine.” He huffed as if she were babbling nonsense, and turned to make his way through the big sliding door. “Black cherry juice did the trick, didn’t it, Simon?” She raised her voice just enough to carry through the door. “A couple of glasses a day, and Jacob was right as rain in a week. It dissolves what they call uric acid, you see, that forms crystals in the toes.”                                                      Herb of Grace

4.                  I get my pedicures from a lady who’s a cross between a cosmetologist and an herbalist. Toenail fungus is a disgusting problem that lots of people have but don’t want to admit to … but she gave me a cure for it. Mix 4 parts grapeseed oil and 1 part oregano oil, and pour it into a bottle. Soak your toes in distilled white vinegar for 10 minutes every other day. After you dry your toes, use an eyedropper to put a drop or two of the oil mixture on each toenail, rubbing the excess dribble into your skin. Within a few weeks you should see the new toenail growing in fungus free.

“I have a customer who’s Englisch and as stubborn as an old mule. It’s taken me two months to convince him to eat his vegetables. Now he tells me he’s had toenail fungus for months and did I have something to cure it. Sure I do. He has to soak his toes in white vinegar for ten minutes every other day, and then put a drop of this oil on each toenail afterward. But if he follows my instructions even once, I’ll be surprised.” Sarah stuck a handwritten label on the bottle. “Why do people resist being made well?”

“Maybe they don’t really believe that something so simple will help them. We Englisch are used to just going to the doctor and taking a pill.”
                                                                                    Keys of Heaven

5.         One of the best cures for colds is the antiviral agent found in elderberries—and wouldn’t you know it, the tree fruits just in time for the onset of cold season. To make a delicious cough syrup, cook a couple of cups of ripe berries in water until the skins burst. Strain well, and return the liquid to the heat to simmer until it’s reduced by half. Add an equal amount of honey to sweeten. Administer by the teaspoonful up to four times a day, or add the teaspoonful to a glass of warm water for a soothing drink.

6.         Legend has it that Roman soldiers used to take borage (Borago officinalis) before they went into battle, hence the expression “borage for courage.” It is known for its support of the adrenal glands, so maybe that’s why. This starry blue flower can be eaten right off the plant, and tastes like cucumber. Here’s a way to liven up the punch bowl at a summer party: Simply freeze a borage flower into the ice cubes in the tray and when you add the cubes to your punch, it will look as though flowers are floating in it. Maybe you’ll find the wallflowers among your guests plucking up their courage to be more social!

“If a woman is unhappy but can’t tell the cause, I often give her my Sunshine Tea. You probably have everything you need to make it in your own garden, except borage flowers and rose petals, which I enclose in the zippy bag.”
—Herb of Grace

7.         In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray, love, remember.” Studies have shown that breathing in the scent of rosemary helps to aid memory. Of course, it’s also a cooking herb, great for flavoring meat and vegetables. But some health professionals are looking into its use to help with cognitive function, memory loss, and even treatment of Alzheimers.

“Ruth made it sound so ordinary—as though selling herbs with which people could cure themselves was no different than selling them rosemary and thyme to cook with. But both went into the body and helped it to work as God meant it to. It was clear she hadn’t been thinking of it in the right way before at all.”  —Herb of Grace

This complimentary book was given to me by Hachette Book Group for my honest opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the lovely review! So glad you enjoyed the book. I spend many happy hours in Lancaster County each summer so I'm also very glad that comes through in the story. Thanks again!