Book Review: The Seeker by Ann H. Gabhart

Posted April 11, 2015 by meezcarrie in Ann H. Gabhart, Book Review, Christian, historical, Kentucky, romance / 7 Comments


The Seeker Book Review

The Seeker by Ann H. Gabhart

THE SEEKER by Ann H. Gabhart
SERIES:
Shaker #3

GENRE: Historical Fiction/Romance (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Revell
RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2010
PAGES: 416

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers–a religious group that does not marry–she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte’s sister, it is more than she can bear. With the country–and her own household–on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road toward unforeseen peace–and a very unexpected love.

Ann H. Gabhart brings alive the strikingly different worlds of the Southern gentry, the simple Shakers, and the ravages of war to weave a touching story of love, freedom, and forgiveness that sticks with readers long after they have turned the last page.

Other Books In This Series

 


“Reason was lost.”

I love fiction that makes me think, that teaches me something, and/or that makes me close the book and do some research. The Shaker Series by Ann Gabhart is such fiction. From my teen years until now, I have lived within spitting distance of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, the real-life inspiration for Ms. Gabhart’s Harmony Hill Shaker community in her Shaker series.

I have always thought of it as a peaceful place, one of simple beauty and a history of faithful (if a bit odd) worship of the same God I worship. Uh…. yeah. About that last part. After I read Ms. Gabhart’s first book in her Shaker series (The Outsider) some of the things I saw in that story led me to do a little research on my own, and I learned a couple of facts that I didn’t know before.

1. The Shakers not only didn’t believe in marriage (in case you wondered why they died out, this is clue #1), they considered it a sin. In fact, when they talked about two people marrying, they called it “committing matrimony”, like we would say someone has committed murder or committed adultery.

2. They considered the founder of the American branch – a woman they called Mother Ann Lee – to be the second appearing of Jesus. Yep.

In her book The Seeker, Ann Gabhart writes about a young well-bred Kentucky lady named Charlotte Vance who feels misplaced in her own life after her often-absent senator father remarries a conniving woman only a few years older than herself. At the same time, the man she had planned to marry decides to join the Shakers so – clearly – the wedding plans are cancelled. In an effort to save her slave Mellie (who is really more of a best friend & sister), Charlotte and Mellie flee her family estate and seek refuge in the nearby Harmony Hill Shaker Village.  The following quote describes Charlotte’s thoughts as she absorbs everything going on around her during a worship service at her new community:

“But now she was sitting in a church without an altar, watching men and women whirl until they collapsed from the effort, eating imaginary fruit while people watched from peepholes to be sure she was obedient. Reason was lost.”

Her friend Mellie also had some thoughts about the Shakers and their ways.

“That’s one thing these Shaker folks has got right.  All the prayin’ time.  But they done messed up on a bunch of other things.”

Some of the characters just made me smile any time they shared page-time with my eyes. Sister Martha, Landon, and Aunt Tish were some of those characters.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did should you read this book too. But…a couple of people in The Seeker will bring out so much irritation in you that you will want to reach into the pages and slap them silly.  Or at least I did.  One of them redeemed herself; one of them did not.

Now for the romance (because that can honestly make or break a book for me).  On Goodreads, the author Ann Gabhart said that this book is her “most romantic Shaker book to date“, not an easy thing to do when the Shakers are celibate. Fortunately, the hero of our story – a sketch artist who is covering the Civil War for Harpers’ Weekly – isn’t a Shaker and neither is Charlotte really.  She is living among them, though, and since the elders monitor all incoming and outgoing mail (don’t get me started!!) for anything they consider inappropriate it is a bit tricky for Adam to let her know how he feels and vice versa. I thought Ms. Gabhart came up with a very creative way to accomplish this though!! I’m not going to spoil it for you – you’re just going to have to find out on your own.

Bottom Line: This is a great read which will open your eyes to an area of history we don’t often study. Gabhart does a good job of creating layered characters – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and her skill at setting is spot-on. While this is the third book in the Shaker series, they are only loosely connected and do not need to be read in order. I do wish the letters between Adam and Charlotte were a bit less bogged down in historical detail and that the truth of Jesus’ grace would have been given a bit more page time to counteract the hopelessness of the Shakers’ false teachings. But overall I couldn’t put it down and found it well-written and engaging.

(I reviewed a copy of this book from my local public library’s collection. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / Love it!

KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion

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Ann H. Gabhart

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels–The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted–as well as Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, Love Comes Home, Words Spoken True, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky.

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What about you? Did you learn anything from this review (or from reading the Shaker series) that you didn’t know about the Shakers? What makes you want to read The Seeker by Ann H. Gabhart?

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7 responses to “Book Review: The Seeker by Ann H. Gabhart

  1. Since I live equal spitting distance away from Shakertown as Carrie’s hubby, nothing sent me to Wikipedia faster than her going “What?! Seriously?” and then telling me to go read what the Shakers believed.
    We’ve gone there to walk around, take photos, but now we’re like “ew….”
    Before we went “ew” too, but that’s because they baked their fruit pies with rind in the crust. (Seriously. Not needed.) That should have been a red flag: Joy-stealing Pies. Yes, the “No Marriage” thing is a biggie, but they conveniently left out the “Ann-Jesus” thing in the guided tour.

  2. Thanks for your review, Carrie. I thought I’d tell you that although the historical Shakers in the 1700s and early to mid-1800s (the time periods of my Shaker novels) did consider Ann Lee the second coming of Christ, in later years of the Shaker life, they adjusted that to say that Mother Ann had the Christ spirit. That was something that all Shakers could have. Or actually, all of us since we want to be like Christ in our actions. So the village re-enactors are not actually wrong when they leave out that part in the tours. They are simply basing their Shaker thought on the more modern beliefs of the late 1800s and 1900s. In the later years that belief was softened and changed as well as many of the stricter views and rules. That’s evident in the photographs that have the brothers and sisters standing together. Of course, the older Shakers thought that was why they were losing members because they weren’t adhering to the rules. The Shakers were very kind, always generous to the poor. They accomplished amazing architectural feats and their work is much to be admired whether that was making chairs or brooms or packaging seeds or spinning cloth or whatever. They were interesting people if misguided in accordance with our Christian beliefs. Also, the lemon pie wasn’t so bad the last time I tried it. I think they must have started using more sugar. 🙂

    • meezcarrie

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review and comment, Ms. Gabhart! I find the Shakers so fascinating and your books always make me want to learn even more about them. I am a latecomer to your series, so just now starting the 4th one but I really enjoy the unique characters and the situations they face! P.S. –the lemon pie is really my husband’s hang-up, not mine haha!! 🙂

  3. Liz Waters

    I had to LOL @ your statement about the difficulty of romance among the celibate Shakers! 😉
    Enjoyed the review!

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