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Anna's Gift

Anna's Gift

4.5 24
by Emma Miller

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No one in Seven Poplars, Delaware, expects Anna Yoder ever to marry. Among her six pretty, petite sisters, big and plain Anna feels like a plow horse. But then Samuel Mast, the handsome widowed father she has secretly loved for years, asks if he can court her. Surely Anna has misheard—Samuel has his pick of lovely brides! She's convinced he


No one in Seven Poplars, Delaware, expects Anna Yoder ever to marry. Among her six pretty, petite sisters, big and plain Anna feels like a plow horse. But then Samuel Mast, the handsome widowed father she has secretly loved for years, asks if he can court her. Surely Anna has misheard—Samuel has his pick of lovely brides! She's convinced he seeks a wife only as a mother for his five children. Or could a man like Samuel actually have a very romantic reason for wanting Anna by his side forever?

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Hannah's Daughters
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Kent County, Delaware…Winter

Anna Yoder carried an open can of robin's egg-blue paint carefully through the big farmhouse kitchen, down the hall and into the bedroom across from her mother's room. Her sister, Susanna, trailed two steps behind, a paintbrush in each hand.

"I want to paint," Susanna proclaimed for the fourth time. "I can paint good. Can I paint, Anna? Can I?"

Anna glanced over her shoulder at her younger sister, and nodded patiently. "Yes, you can paint. But not right now. I'm cutting in and it's tricky not getting paint on the floor or the ceiling. You can help with the rolling later."

Susanna agreed, and her round face lit up in a huge smile as she bounced from one bare foot to the other and waved the paintbrushes in the air. "I'm the goodest painter!"

Anna chuckled. "I'm sure you are the best painter."

Susanna was nothing, if not enthusiastic. Of her six sisters, Susanna was the dearest and the one toward which Anna felt most protective. Sweet, funny Susanna was the baby of the family and had been born with Down syndrome. Their Dat had always called her one of God's special children; at eighteen, Susanna still possessed the innocence of a girl of nine or ten.

Fortunately, for all the tasks that came hard to Susanna, such as reading, sewing or cooking, the Lord had blessed her with a bottomless well of special gifts. Susanna could soothe a crying baby better than any of them; she always knew when it was going to rain, and she had a rare ability to see through the complications of life to find the simple and shining truth. And sometimes, when things weren't going well, when the cow had gone dry or the garden was withering for lack of rain, Susanna could fill the house with laughter and remind them all that there was always hope in God's great plan.

Still, keeping track of Susanna and running the household was a big responsibility, one that Anna felt doubly, with Mam off to Ohio to bring Anna's grandmother, great aunt and sisters, Rebecca and Leah, home. Susanna and Anna would be on their own for several days. Their sister Ruth and her husband, Eli, who lived just across the field, had gone to a wedding in Pennsylvania. Irwin, the boy who lived with them, had accompanied their sister Miriam and her husband, Charley, to an auction in Virginia. Not that Anna didn't have help. Eli's cousin was pitching in with the milking and the outside chores, but Anna still had a lot to do. And not a lot of time to get it all done.

Anna had promised Mam to have the house spic-and-span when she returned home, and she took the responsibility seriously. Having both Miriam and Ruth marry and move out in November had been a big change, but bringing Gross-mama and Aunt Jezebel into the house would be an even bigger change. Grossmama was no longer able to live on her own. Anna understood that, and she knew why her mother felt responsible for Dat's aging mother, especially now that he was gone. The trouble was, Grossmama and Mam had never gotten along, and with the onset of Alzheimer's, Anna doubted that the situation would improve. Luckily, everyone adored Grossmama's younger sister, Jezebel; unlike Grossmama, Aunt Jezebel was easygoing and would fit smoothly into the household.

"We're paintin' because Grossmama's coming," Susanna chirped. Her speech wasn't always perfect, but her family understood every word she said. "She baked me a gingerbread man."

"Ya," Anna agreed. "She did." Susanna was the one person in the household who her grandmother never found fault with, and that was a good thing. If Grossmama could see how precious Susanna was, she couldn't be that bad, could she?

Once, when she was visiting years ago, Grossmama had spent the afternoon baking cookies and had made Susanna a gingerbread man with raisin eyes, a cranberry nose and a marshmallow beard. Susanna had never forgotten, and whenever their grandmother was mentioned, Susanna reminded them of the gingerbread treat.

Grossmama had fallen on the stairs at her house the previous year, fracturing a hip, so Mam hadn't wanted her climbing the steps to a second-floor bedroom here. Instead, they'd decided to move Anna and Susanna upstairs to join Leah and Rebecca in the dormitory-style chamber over the kitchen. Grossmama and Aunt Jezebel could share this large downstairs room just a few feet away from the bathroom.

It was a lovely room, with tall windows and plenty of room for two beds, a chest of drawers and a rocking chair. Anna knew that Grossmama and Aunt Jezebel would be comfortable here…except for the color. Anna couldn't remember which of her sisters had chosen the original color for the walls, but Grossmama hated it. She'd made a fuss when Mam had written to explain the new arrangements. Grossmama said that she could never sleep one night in a bed surrounded by fancy "English" walls.

By saying "English," Anna understood that her grandmother meant "not Plain." To Grossmama, white was properly Plain; blue was Plain. Since the ceiling, the window trim, the doors and the fireplace mantel were white, blue was the color in Anna's paint can. Actually, Anna didn't see anything improper about the color the room was now. The muted purple was closer to lavender, and she had a lavender dress and cape that she really loved. But once Grossmama set her mind on a thing or against it, there was no changing it.

Standing in the bedroom now, staring at the walls, Anna wished Ruth was there. Ruth was a good painter. Anna prided herself on her skill at cooking, perhaps more than she should have, but she knew that her painting ability was sketchy at best. But, since the choice was between Susanna or her, Anna knew who had to paint the room.

Of course, she'd meant to get started sooner, but the week had gotten away from her. Susanna had a dentist appointment on Monday, which took all afternoon by the time they had to wait for the driver. On Tuesday, there had been extra eggs, which needed to go to Spence's Auction and Bazaar. Normally, they didn't go to Spence's in the winter months, but Aunt Martha and Dorcas had opened a baked-goods stand. Anna had taken the opportunity to leave Susanna with their oldest sister, Johanna, so that she could go with Aunt Martha to sell her eggs and jams.

Now it was Wednesday. After Mam left at dawn, Anna and Susanna had spent the morning scrubbing, dusting, polishing and setting her yeast dough to rise. Now there were no more excuses. Anna had to start painting if she wanted to be finished on time. Because they were alone, Anna wore her oldest dress, the one with the blackberry stains, and had covered her hair—not with a proper white kapp, but with a blue scarf that Irwin's terrier had chewed holes in.

Knowing that Susanna would be certain to lean against a freshly painted wall, Anna had made sure that Susanna's clothing was equally worn. That way, if the dresses were ruined it wouldn't be a waste. Anna's final precaution was to remove her shoes and stockings and ask Susanna to do the same. Paint would scrub off bare feet. Black stockings and sneakers wouldn't be so lucky.

Gingerly setting the can on the little shelf on the ladder, Anna climbed the rickety rungs, dipped her brush in the can and began to carefully paint along the wall, just below the ceiling. She'd barely gone two feet when Susanna announced that she was hungry. "Wait a little," Anna coaxed. "It's still early. When I get as far as the window, we'll have some lunch."

"But, Anna, I'm hungry now.'"

"All right. Go and fix yourself a honey biscuit."

"'Fff…thirsty, too," she said, struggling to pronounce the word properly.

"Milk or tea. You don't need my help."

"I'll make you a biscuit, too."

"Ne. I'll eat later. Don't wander off," she cautioned her sister. "Stay in the house." Susanna was capable of taking care of herself on the farm, but it was cold today, with snow flurries in the forecast, and she didn't always remember to wear her coat. It wouldn't do for Mam to come home and find Susanna sick with a cold.

Anna continued to paint. The blue covered the lavender better than she thought it would. It would need a second coat, but she had expected as much. As she carefully brushed paint on the wall in a line along the ceiling's edge, Anna began to hum and then to sing one of her favorite fast tunes from the Liedersammlung. She liked to sing when she was alone. Her voice wasn't as good as Johanna's or Ruth's, but singing made her feel bubbly inside. And now, with only Susanna to hear, she could sing as loudly as she wanted. If she was a bit off-key, her little sister wouldn't complain.

"Anna? Maybe we come at a bad time?"

Startled by a deep male voice, Anna stopped singing midword and spun around, holding onto the ladder with her free hand. "Samuel!"

Their nearest neighbor, the widower Samuel Mast, stood inside the bedroom holding his youngest daughter, Mae, by the hand. Mortified by her appearance and imagining how awful her singing must have sounded, Anna wanted to shrink up and hide behind the paint can. Of all the people to catch her in such a condition, it had to be Samuel Mast. Tall, broad-shouldered, handsome Samuel Mast. Anna's cheeks felt as though they were on fire, and she knew she must be as flame-colored as a ripe tomato.

"I remembered what you said." Susanna hopped from one foot to the other in the doorway. "I didn't go outside. Let Samuel and Mae in." She beamed.

"You're busy," Samuel said, tugging on Mae's hand. "We can come back another—"

"Ne," Anna interrupted, setting her brush carefully across the paint can and coming down the ladder. "Just…you surprised me." She tried to cover her embarrassment with a smile, but knew it was lopsided. Samuel. Of all the people to see her like this, in her patched clothing and bare legs, it had to be Samuel. Her stomach felt as though she'd swallowed a feather duster. "It's not a bad time," she babbled in a rush. "I'm painting the room. Blue."

"Ya, blue. I can see that." Samuel looked as uncomfortable as she felt. Anna had never seen him looking so flustered. Or untidy, for that matter. Samuel's nut-brown hair, which badly needed cutting, stuck out in clumps and appeared to have gobs of oatmeal stuck in it. His shirt was wrinkled, and one suspender hung by a thread. Even his trousers and shoes were smeared with dried oatmeal.

"Something wrong?" Anna glanced at Mae. The child was red-eyed from crying, her nose was running, her kapp was missing, and her face and hands were smeared with dried oatmeal, too. Anna's heart immediately went out to the little girl. She'd left her aunt's only two weeks ago, to live with her father for the first time, and Anna knew the move couldn't have been easy for her. "Are you having a hard morning, pumpkin?"

Mae's bottom lip came out and tears spilled down her cheeks. "Want…want Aunt L'eeze. Want…want to go home! Want herP"

Anna glanced at Samuel, who looked ready to burst into tears as well, and took command. "Mae—" she leaned down to speak to her at eye-level "—would you like to go with Susanna into the kitchen and have a honey biscuit and a cup of milk?"

Mae nodded, her lower lip still protruding.

Anna stood up. "Susanna, could you get Mae a biscuit?"

"Ya," Susanna agreed. "And wash her face." She smiled at Mae. "You look like a little piggy."

For seconds, Mae seemed suspended between tears and a smile, but then she nodded and threw her chubby arms up to Susanna.

Samuel sighed as Susanna scooped up Mae and carried her away. "I don't seem to get anything right with her," he said.

Anna smiled. "Best to feed children porridge and wash them with soap and water. Not the other way around."

Samuel returned a hint of a smile, obviously embarrassed. "It's…been hard…these last weeks," he stumbled. "Having her home. She's been four years with my sister, and I'm…we're strange to her. She doesn't know me or her brothers and sisters."

Sensing that it might be easier for Samuel to share his concerns if she continued with her work, Anna climbed the ladder again and dipped her brush into the can.

Aunt Martha had been telling Mam the other day that Samuel was finding it difficult to manage his farm, his house and to care for five children, and that it was just a matter of time before he realized it. "Then he'll start looking for a wife," she'd said. "Something he should have done three years ago."

"When Frieda passed, little Mae was only two months old," Samuel continued. "I had my hands full, so Louise thought it better if she took the baby home to Ohio until…until…"

Anna knew until what—until Samuel finished mourning his wife and remarried. Usually, widowers waited a year before looking for a new partner, but sometimes, when there were small children, the waiting period might be much shorter. Samuel's widowerhood had somehow stretched to four years.

Meet the Author

Emma Miller lives quietly in her old farmhouse in rural Delaware amid fertile fields and lush woodlands. Fortunate enough to be born into a family of strong faith, she grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by loving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Emma was educated in local schools, and once taught in an Amish schoolhouse much like the one at Seven Poplars. When she's not caring for her large family, reading and writing are her favorite pastimes.

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Anna's Gift 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At last a story where the heroine doesn't have to be a size 6 or doesn't have to lose weight and be made over to attract the man of her dreams. I won't explain the story. Other readers have done it better than I could, but as a woman who has struggled with her weight, I loved and appreciated Anna. This is a real Cinderella story. Anna's sleigh ride made me laugh and cry. If you want a warm, wholesome story about real people, don't miss Anna's Gift. This is a good book for teenage girls who worry so about how beautiful they are and if anyone will ever love them. Anna's beauty shines from within and Samuel saw it. I was cheering for him from the first.
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
She'd admired Samuel from afar, but knew he'd never be interested in her. So when he asks her about courting, she gets so excited and embarrassed she falls off the ladder and douses both of them with the blue paint she was using. How can she ever look at him again? Ms. Miller has written a very pleasant Amish tale about those who live "plain" and have certain rules to follow regarding appropriate behavior and courting. Her main character, Anna, is a large woman. She's big-boned, she likes to eat, and she has rather plain features. She knows she should choose a husband, but she wants to find love, not just a mate. Ms. Miller makes her a warm, kind woman who is good with children, but finds words wound her soul when people speak badly about her. Our hero is Samuel. His wife died several years ago and he has five children. He should be getting married again, but he just wasn't ready for it yet. Then his sister sends his youngest daughter home and he knows she needs a woman's touch. He also has had an interest in Anna for some time. The conflict arises because Anna isn't sure she wants to be courted. She'd love to have Samuel as her husband, but surely he couldn't love her. She's too fat and too tall. Maybe he just wants a wife to take care of his five children? My favorite part of this story is how her friends and family try to make Anna understand that she is someone special in her own way. All beauty isn't external. Ms. Miller patiently and diligently weaves the story's way through Anna's internal insecurities and shows that even the Amish can have sharp tongues. The author wrote a very good tale that kept me reading until I finished it. I was afraid that Anna was going to shy away like a young, flighty horse. Ms. Miller had me hooked from the moment Anna dropped the blue paint on Samuel and I had to see how this story was going to end. It was a good, smoothly flowing tale where all the characters learned a few lessons on the way. Ms. Miller has written several other Amish mysteries. Why not check them all out? And do read this one, it's very good! Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
amygg More than 1 year ago
Let me start off by saying I liked the book, but it's pretty much predictable. You know how it's going to end. Throughout the book, I felt sadness, frustration, and of course, happiness. Would definitely recommend it. It's a breath of fresh air from a lot of the other "romance" books out there.
Kelly49 More than 1 year ago
I like Emma Millers books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite Emma Miller book! Anna is a big girl, but Samuel doesn't mind. How refreshing!!
Lovetoread--ltr More than 1 year ago
Ms Miller has created not only a beloved family, but also a wonderfully realistic view of Amish traditions. Their openness of their life style interspersed with humor, respect, and normally of living their beliefs is truly delightful. After all the sisters find happiness,...can't you locate some cousins somewhere so the "beat" goes on?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
enjoyed this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book. I can't wait for the next book to come out! I preordered it as soon as I finished this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it ! This series gets better and better! I LOVE Emma Miller's style of writing and all the details about Amish life. Looking forward to her fourth book about Leah!
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
Anna's Gift by Emma Miller Anna Yoder feels that she is the ugly one in her family. With her beautiful thin sisters around her, Anna compares her large plain self to them. She was teased about her weight as a child and now at age twenty-one, she knows she may never be loved. She has secretly admired Samuel Mast from far back already. He seems to be courting her Mam and she cannot imagine him being her step-father. On the other hand she knows such a handsome man would never look her way. Samuel has waited for two years until Anna turned twenty-one and so he would have the courage to ask to court her. He sees her inner beauty and believes this is the woman the Lord has given him. They are both Amish and carry the same beliefs. He has five children though and he wants a wife who will love them as her own. Little Mae has been with his sister since she was only a few months old. When Freida died he could not take care of the babe. Now that she is with him she sees him as a stranger. Anna quickly falls in love with Samuel s girls but the boys are mean and don't want their dad to marry her. Anna does not want to marry without love but she don't know if there will another chance for her. With her cousin whispering things like how could he care for her and how she's only needed for her household skills, Anna's decision becomes harder. When her Grossmama and Aunt Jezebel come to live at their home it adds more tension as her Grossmama seems to dislike her mam and is mean to her. When all is said and done, can Anna ever see herself through the eyes of someone who loves her or will the reflection in her mind keep her from finding happiness? **Received through NetGalley for review.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
When Samuel Mast expresses an interest in Anna Yoder, she is sure she heard him wrong and he meant her mother. Anna is a big boned girl, and can't imagine a man as handsome as Samuel being interested in her. Anna does not have very good self esteem, but is so kind hearted. To make things worse some of her Aunts and Cousins, tell her that Samuel only wants her to cook, clean and watch his children. They tell her she a big fat girl and he surely would never love her! Samuel lost his wife 4 years ago, and everyone in the Amish Community expects him to marry Hannah Yoder, but he falls in love with Anna. Anna does not believe he could love her. Some of the incidents in this book are hysterically funny...be prepared for some really great laughs! Throughout the whole story you find a strong faith in God, even Grossmutter with her dementia keeps her faith. A really good and fast read...enjoy! I received this book from the publisher Harlequin, and was not required to give a positive review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a predicament to be in! Everyone in the community seems to think Samuel is interested in Anna's mom, but Anna soon learns SHE'S the one he wants. Well-written and engaging.
Ausjenny More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and really enjoyed it. Anna is bigger than her sisters and has been teased all her life for being big. Samuel lost his wife 4 years ago and everyone thought he wanted to court Anna's mother. Right from the beginning this book had me hooked. Samuel wants to court Anna but Anna thinks he could only want her to look after his children and cook and clean for him. He is quite handsome and she doesn't think he could love her for herself. I really felt for Anna in a world where so many people look at the outside and not the inside Anna feels she is unattractive and that no man as good as Samuel could love her for herself. I love the way Emma told Anna's story and showed her insecurities. So many of us feel we are not pretty enough or good enough or even worthy of being loved by someone which makes Anna a character many of us can identify with. I know I do. I have have been teased for my looks and told I am fat even by people in the church and it does hurt and stick. What I love is how Emma tells Anna's story and shows readers how kind hearted and loving she really is. I also love how Samuel's story was told and we see just why he loves Anna so much. This book deals with self image, love and perceptions. This was a wonderful book and the best I have read from Emma so far.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book
southern_girlTN More than 1 year ago
Loved this series
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