"When a marriage breakup is imminent, the matchmakers get to work"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted July 16, 2018
Romance | Christian | Amish
Sometimes when I read an Amish romance, I wish people had
more of a sense of humour. No such lack is apparent in this
enjoyable account, which begins on a sixth wedding
anniversary in Wisconsin. Mary Anne Neuenschwander can't
have children, and she's fed up with her husband working
and fishing and paying no attention to his lovely young
wife. When Jethro comes HOME ON HUCKLEBERRY HILL he
discovers Mary Anne has taken the tent and a few household
items, and set up a quilt factory near the barn. Where's my
dinner? is his reaction, but she says she's left him. They
are not allowed to divorce, but nothing says they have to
live in the same house.
Anna and Felty Helmuth are theMatchmakers of
Huckleberry Hill who give the series its title, and the
seniors may be a bit stiff for camping out, but they are
determined to support their grand-daughter. Even the bishop
merely counsels patience and tells Jethro not to be
critical; everyone should look to their own self first for
failings. Mary Anne is well able to sell quilts and should
be self- supporting without the housework to accomplish. Not
surprisingly, Jethro misses his wife's cooking as much as
his wife; and his family is not pleased.
Now we see where the lovely cover picture of a lady sitting
by a campfire comes from, and while the weather is good, why
not? Of course, brave Mary Anne would need a roof over her
head before the snow. But maybe the wise matchmakers will
have mended fences by fall. This extraordinary heroine is
creative and good at crafts, willing to blame herself for
all that goes wrong, and strong enough to hide her trembling
knees when she attends church in front of her community. She
represents many women, and we can all learn a lesson.
I enjoyed the bishop's remark that a husband should cherish
his wife, while the differing reactions of the wider
community are priceless. This is a really well-observed tale
by Jennifer Beckstrand who always has an original take on
matters. HOME ON HUCKLEBERRY HILL has to be one of the
funniest books I have read this year.
Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsinâ€™s irrepressible eighty-
something matchmakers Anna and Felty Helmuth are at it
again. And this time theyâ€™re willing to rough it to get
the job doneâ€¦
Mary Anne Neuenschwander knows she should be content with
what Gotte has given her. She has a comfortable house, a
fruitful farm, and a good, steady husband. But after
nearly six years of marriage, she still longs for a baby.
Yet her husband, Jethro, seems to care more about fishing
than about his wife. Unable to bear Jethroâ€™s indifference,
Mary Anne moves into a tent in the woods where he wonâ€™t
have to be bothered. But when her mammi and dawdi find out
what sheâ€™s done, theyâ€™ll stop at nothingâ€”including a
little camping trip of their ownâ€”to help save their
Jethroâ€™s greatest blessing is his beloved wife, Mary Anne.
Nothing else in his life has turned out anywhere near the
way he expected. Rather than burden Mary Anne with his
disappointment, he shields her by spending less and less
time at home and more time on the river. But when he finds
that sheâ€™s moved out, heâ€™s shocked. What will people
think? What is Mary Anne thinking? And what clever plans
are her grandparents hatching?â€¦
ExcerptAnna and Felty are determined to camp with their
granddaughter Mary Anne. They have quite an adventure when
they try to sleep in a hammock.
Mary Anne nearly jumped out of her skin when Mammiâ€™s voice
rang loud and clear through the darkness. â€śFelty, thereâ€™s a
spider on my neck!â€ť
Dawdiâ€™s sleepy, muffled voice was a little harder to hear.
â€śHuh? What are you saying, Annie?â€ť
Mammiâ€™s voice got louder and more insistent. â€śCan you get
this spider off my neck?â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t see it,â€ť Dawdi said.
â€śKill it!â€ť Mammi squeaked.
â€śI canâ€™t kill it. Spiders are very helpful in the garden.â€ť
Dawdi always did have a heart for the animals.
â€śAch! Itâ€™s crawling down my back. Help me, Felty. Help me.â€ť
Mary Anne heard a thud and a thump and some general
struggling coming from the direction of the hammock. She
and Jethro glanced at each other before Jethro retrieved
his flashlight and they sprinted to the twin trees.
Mary Anne gasped as Jethro shined his light in the
direction of the hammock. Arms and legs stuck out in every
direction, flailing as if trying to find purchase on
anything solid. Somehow Mammi and Dawdi had managed to trap
themselves in their own bed, tangled beyond any knot Mary
Anne could begin to untie.
â€śHold on, Mammi and Dawdi,â€ť Mary Anne said. â€śWeâ€™re coming.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m stuck,â€ť Mammi panted. â€śWeâ€™re both stuck, and I think
Iâ€™ve lost one of my feet.â€ť
â€śOuch! Thatâ€™s my beard, Annie,â€ť Dawdi said. His arm hung
from one of the holes in the netting, and he waved it
around as if he was paddling through the waterâ€”probably
hoping he could swim to the nearest tree and save both of
â€śKill it, Felty!â€ť
Both of Dawdiâ€™s arms stuck out from either side of the
hammock. He wasnâ€™t going to get a chance at that spider
unless he trapped it with his feet.
Sparky the dog, who had been asleep under the hammock, woke
up and started barking as soon as Jethro got within ten
feet. If Mammiâ€™s squealing didnâ€™t wake up the whole camp,
Sparkyâ€™s barking would. Sparky was soon joined by Lilyâ€™s
dog, Pilot, two tents over, who sounded more like a wolf
than a dog. Mandy and Noahâ€™s Polish hound dog, Chester,
joined the chorus. Oneâ€”or more likely bothâ€”of Lilyâ€™s twins
started crying. The sounds of Mammiâ€™s squealing, babiesâ€™
crying, and the dogsâ€™ barking echoed up through the trees
and into the night sky.
â€śCan you stop struggling?â€ť Jethro said, running his hand
along the hammock, trying to find where theyâ€™d gone wrong.
â€śIt looks like it twisted completely upside down and around
â€śI did a flip when that spider landed on me,â€ť Mammi said.
Mammi was spry, but surely she couldnâ€™t have flipped the
hammock all the way over on itself. Mary Anne could
understand Mammiâ€™s reaction, though. She didnâ€™t like
spiders either. She wasnâ€™t sure how high she would jump if
one landed on her.
Sarah Beachy emerged from her tent carrying a hissing
lantern. Her hair fell in a long braid down her back, and
she wore a black shawl around her shoulders. â€śJethro
Neuenschwander, what are you doing? Havenâ€™t you stirred up
enough trouble for one day?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s not Jethroâ€™s fault,â€ť Mary Anne said, though why she
bothered to defend him was a mystery. She shone the
flashlight in the direction of the hammock. â€śMammi and
Dawdi got tangled all on their own.â€ť
Sarah raised both eyebrows, as if annoyed but not surprised
that her grandparents were stuck in her hammock. â€śI told
you, Mammi,â€ť she said, talking to the east side of the
hammock at the spot where Mammiâ€™s head was most likely to
be. â€śPeople your age should be at home sleeping in a bed.
Youâ€™re going to get sciatica or lumbago. Or arthritis.â€ť
Dawdi sounded like he had a blanket lodged between his
teeth. â€śAnd probably shingles too.â€ť
â€śNow, Felty,â€ť Mammi scolded. â€śWeâ€™ve had the shot for
shingles. No need to worry about that.â€ť
Noah came out of his tent quickly buttoning his shirt.
Chester followed, barking as if a herd of cats was sneaking
around, maybe crouched behind the surrounding trees. â€śWhat
happened?â€ť Noah asked.
Jethro simultaneously tried to fend off Sparky and figure
out how to free Mammi and Dawdi. â€śTheyâ€™re tangled in the
hammock, and I canâ€™t quite see clear how to rescue them.â€ť
â€śHelp us, Jethro,â€ť Mammi called. Her face peeked out from
under one of the blankets and her bare foot stuck out from
the hammock not five inches from Jethroâ€™s face. Mary Anne
shivered involuntarily. Mammiâ€™s toes had to be freezing.
Noah ran his fingers along one side of the hammock while
Mammi and Dawdi struggled mightily inside their cocoon. â€śI
think weâ€™re going to have to take the whole thing down,â€ť he
Jethro nodded. â€śDo you want to untie the knot or hold them
Noah thought about it for a second. â€śYouâ€™re strong. Iâ€™ll
untie, and weâ€™ll both lower them to the ground.â€ť
Jethro handed Mary Anne the flashlight. â€śAnna and Felty,
weâ€™re going to have to take your hammock down. Noah is
going to untie one end, and weâ€™ll lower you to the ground.
Then we can get you out of there.â€ť
â€śOkay,â€ť Mammi said. â€śIf youâ€™re sure you wonâ€™t drop us.â€ť
Jethro patted one of Mammiâ€™s hands, which stuck out from
the hammock. â€śI wonâ€™t let you fall, Anna. Youâ€™re my
Mary Anne smiled to herself. Jethro had such a comforting
voice and a calming way about him. He could talk an angry
bear into trusting him. His untroubled manner had pulled
her through those first few weeks after the miscarriage. It
was only later that he seemed to quit caring how she felt
and started treating her with indifference instead of
â€śBe careful, Jethro,â€ť Mammi said. â€śIâ€™ve lost track of that
spider, and he might turn on you next.â€ť
Noah nodded to Jethro and held the rope taut with one hand
while he untied it with his other. Jethro braced his back
and shoulder against the sagging hammock and gripped the
rope with both hands. Noah loosened the knot and held on
tight as Jethro slowly lowered his end of the hammock to
the ground. Mammi and Dawdi rolled out of the hammock like
marbles from a bag.
â€śAch du lieva,â€ť Mammi said. â€śNow I know what a burrito
feels like. Iâ€™m never eating one again, even though I have
a very gute recipe.â€ť
Mary Anne had tasted Mammiâ€™s burritos. She could only hope
Mammi would be true to her word and never pull out that
What do you think about this review?
1 comment posted.
Re: When a marriage breakup is imminent, the matchmakers get to work
Clare, thank you so much for a lovely review. I'm so glad you laughed! I love Anna
and Felty because they are always up for anything, even camping. Have a
(Jennifer Beckstrand 11:09pm August 4, 2018)
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