Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake. Bethany House, 2010. 352p. (978-0-7642-0321-3)
Maggie Rose is just 21, but she looks after and feeds about a dozen old men she calls uncles although only one is really related. The tiny town of Carver’s Holler, Arkansas is a dying town that lost all of its womenfolk and children (except Maggie) to a cholera epidemic (the men were off helping with a church construction project). It still has a train station though, which is fortunate for Todd Valmer whose mother had a stroke on the train. Maggie is a well-respected healer in that area and Todd is advised to take his mother there. Although at first he doesn’t want to accept that a woman healer is as good or better than a doctor, he does admit that “the young gal was what Ma called a touch of serendipity – something unexpected that brought gladness or thanksgiving.” (pg 36)
A Texas farmer, Todd has his hands full enough running a farm during a drought and knows that he can’t take care of his half paralyzed and bitter mother. So with the blessing of Maggie’s uncle he proposes to her and they get married. The rest of the story is how they adjust to married life living in a one room cabin with a cranky mother-in-law and how the three of them work out their cultural differences and traditions – she’s from rural Arkansas while the Valmers are German and they are now living in Texas.
This is the second book I’ve read by Cathy Marie Hake. I did enjoy Serendipity for the most part – I’ve always enjoyed marriage of convenience stories, but I wasn’t drawn into the time period and the ending was very rushed. The story is supposed to take place in 1893 but it felt more like modern characters plopped in a setting where horse drawn wagons are the norm and there are no ovens. Sometimes it felt like there were electric lights in the barn because of how well they could see each other or things in the barn and the stalls – no mention was ever made of lamps. But maybe it had lots of windows?
The characters are very interesting and Mrs. Hake does a great job weaving into the story events that shaped the character of Todd, Maggie and his mother. Although it’s never clearly stated how Maggie is able to have such a huge amount of patience with her mother-in-law.
I enjoyed it while reading it and didn’t want to put it down (but then I never like putting a book down) but was left feeling slightly dissatisfied at the end and felt as though something were missing. If you enjoy marriage of convenience stories or stories about spunky girls and aren’t too picky about the historical feel you may find this an enjoyable read.