cover image When the Heart Cries

When the Heart Cries

Cindy Woodsmall, . . WaterBrook, $13.99 (328pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-7292-7

In this debut inspirational novel, Woodsmall takes readers inside a contemporary Amish family where the eldest daughter, Hannah, has fallen in love with her neighbor Paul. The trouble is that he's a Mennonite, and if those two faiths look similar to outsiders, they don't to Hannah's father, who would never permit his daughter to marry outside the Amish community. Yes, this is a familiar setup, with shades of the movie Witness . But the star-crossed romance is only the backdrop to the central events of the novel: in the very first chapter, Hannah experiences a trauma, setting in motion a chain of events that sometimes seems incredible. Woodsmall's prose is undistinguished; she too often flatly describes emotions ("Disappointment and anger formed a knot in Luke's chest"), and the Pennsylvania Dutch sprinkled throughout the book can be distracting. Still, this novel shows potential. Most of the characters are likable, and Woodsmall depicts both the appeal and the potential myopia of secluded Amish life. An emotionally subtle subplot involving Hannah's younger sister's envy adds some depth. Better yet, the surprising conclusion sets Woodsmall up for a sequel—but she'll need some fine-tuning if she wants a truly lasting series. (Sept. 19)