Sleeping Beauty I’m Not

(Originally published June 4, 2014)

Every now and then I come across a couple that are so sweet with each other, it makes my heart warm. Usually, but not always, they have been childhood sweethearts.
However, all the relationships I’ve ever had with men have been fraught with angst, turmoil, and just plain friction. It makes for some highs and lows, but rarely is the relationship showered with the ongoing tenderness I see in these sweet couples. Don’t get me wrong, there is tenderness. But there’s also an awful lot of conflict.
Maybe that’s why I don’t write books about “those” kinds of couples. It may be why I don’t find books about those sorts of relationships interesting either. There’s likely not enough of “me” in those kinds of stories. Honestly, they just don’t seem real.
Or, maybe I just enjoy the conflict in a relationship?  Hmmm.  I don’t think I’ll go there today.

One thing is for sure. Sleeping Beauty I’m not. My Prince Charming didn’t kiss me and wake me up so we could live happily ever after.
I just finished racing through Kim Vogel Sawyer’s  Waiting for Summer’s Return. First, let me say I have never read Sawyer before. Her website advertises “gentle stories of hope” and Waiting for Summer’s Return certainly delivered.
Bostonian Summer Steadham is stranded in a Mennonite town in Kansas after the deaths of her husband and four children of typhoid. In order to remain close to their graves, she takes a job as a tutor for widower Peter  Ollenberger’s ten year old son, Thomas . Peter is a sweet, admirable, hardworking man. He is infinitely patient with  Summer  which, in her grief stricken state, she needs. I liked him, but I sure wanted him to lose his temper at least once. He really was almost too good to be true. I really couldn’t find any fault in the man at all.
waitingAs a matter of fact, I couldn’t find fault with any of the characters besides the townspeople at the beginning who don’t like Summer because she is not a Mennonite. As a result, I didn’t find enough high energy conflict in the book to keep me interested in reading every word. I skipped over the substory of Summer’s conversion to the Mennonite faith as well as her ministering to her mother-in-law near the end of the book. I found it preachy and too slow for me to wade through reading. I kept waiting for an explosion between Summer, an obvious outsider, and the Mennonites, who were clearly displeased with her arrival in their community. After a few harsh words between Peter and church elders, one woman befriends Summer and the rest soon follow.
The one creeping fault in Summer’s character is her selfish and persistent decision to drag her husband and children from Boston to a life on the Kansas prairie over their wishes. I waited for the gut wrenching emotional turmoil that would set her towards the struggle of taming her selfish side. It never happened. She acknowledged it briefly, and that was the end of the matter. Even Peter’s son, ten year old Thomas, is too good to be true.
If you’re a fan of sweet romances and don’t mind long sections devoted to Christianity, then you’ll enjoy Sawyer’s portrayal of two people trying to move past their pain to find love. If you like grittier fiction, like Kirsten Heitzman and Judith Pella, or fiction with a Christian worldview without any overt plot about Christianity, then you’ll be disappointed.
As for those sweet older couples, I guess I won’t be one of them.
Hmmm!

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