UNTIL THEN by Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall
GENRE: Time-Slip/Amish Romance (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: September 5, 2023
Until then may I use my time as you desire . . .
In 1985, Old Order Amish couple Celeste and Vin Lantz have been married for six years. Vin is a carpenter by trade but an artist in his heart. He is especially captivated by drawing portraits, which the Amish consider idolatry. Knowing they could be shunned, Celeste is shocked to discover that Vin has secretly been sketching her and their sons. When she confronts Vin, they argue and Vin storms off . . . and seems to disappear, leaving Celeste to wonder if he chose his art over his family.
When he leaves the house that night, Vin seeks peace on his favorite mountain overlook. But he takes a fall and wakes to find himself injured and lost. Vin soon realizes just how far he has traveled—not only in distance but back in time, to 1822 Ohio, a place that provides the freedom he craved but where he is separated from his beloved wife and children. Vin is saved by the kindness of strangers and gradually learns to survive and even to use his skills to help his new friends in this unfamiliar time and place. But all the while he prays desperately for God to return him to his family, before Celeste makes a new life without him.
For fans of Amish romance and time-slip novels comes a gripping story of faith, freedom, redemption, and the truest desires of the heart by New York Times bestselling author Cindy Woodsmall.
“Until then, may I use my time as You desire.”
I absolutely love novels that use magical realism elements like time travel or a sentient town or the right book showing up exactly when you need it. I especially love it when the author is skilled at framing the magical realism elements within the context of God’s sovereignty, because it’s one of my favorite aspects to the magical realism genre: The reminder that God created all the ‘rules’ that the universe abides by and – should He choose to do so for a greater purpose – He can change them as He will (and then exploring those possibilities). As a character says in Until Then by Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall, “He’s the Alpha and Omega; this is nothing.” The time travel aspects to this story are masterfully plotted, and whether you happen to be reading about 1985 or 1822 you will find yourself compelled to keep turning the pages to see how it will all be resolved.
The dilemma in which Vin and Celeste find themselves is unlike any other Amish novel I’ve read, even without the time travel element. Though that certainly does complicate it further. Celeste and Vin fought over his secret sketchbook full of faces, something strictly forbidden by the legalistic Ordnung they live under, but honestly a lot of their fight is perpetuated by each one feeling betrayed by the other. When Vin goes to his favorite thinking place, he falls off the overlook and wakes up 163 years in the past – and in a different state. Back in 1985, Celeste only knows that Vin never came home and must deal with all of the emotions and ramifications of not knowing if he is dead or alive. The authors did a great job of portraying each character’s emotions in their very different intricacies and layers – all the primary characters, not just Celeste and Vin – while at the same time helping readers see the commonality in what they’re feeling – a longing for home. I thought it was all just brilliant and it gave me a visual representation of a profound truth I’d heard many times but never quite understood until now.
This world is not my home / I’m just a’passin through.
Those words are from a hymn I’ve sung and heard since childhood in the little country church my grandfather pastored. They’ve always stuck with me but I found it difficult to wrap my mind around how the concept should make me live differently. It always seemed to me that it was wrong to act as if you didn’t want to be somewhere. But in the stories of Celeste, Vin, George, Anke, Maud, Josiah, and others in this novel, I found a very profound perspective.
“We’re on this planet for a season, and I want to live as if I’m biding my time in a strange land.”
Vin models this attitude in his approach to being stuck in 1822, to be sure a very strange land from 1985 even for an Amish man. He learned to navigate the strangeness while still acknowledging it, and while he always longed for home and hoped to return, he very intentionally made the most of his time there. Specifically by making a difference in the lives of the people he encountered along the way. I gasped out loud in delight at one of the ways this comes full circle by the end, a surprise that filled my magical-realism-loving heart to the brim. And since I find it fascinating to imagine the ‘what if’s’, there was much for me to explore even in this little surprise, wondering if perhaps Heaven includes moments like that, too.
Bottom Line: Until Then is a thoughtful and creative story populated with layered and heartfelt characters, sweet romance, and profound Biblical truth. Generally in time travel novels, we only follow the traveler (in this case, Vin) but I loved that Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall allow us to spend time with Celeste and the people supporting her in the meantime, too. It gave the story even more emotional depth and made Vin’s push to get home one that readers are fully invested in as well. In case you can’t tell, I really loved this unique novel, and I’m already looking forward to their next one!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are still only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!
KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion
Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA bestselling author of twenty-six works of fiction and one nonfiction book. Coverage of Cindy’s writing has been featured on ABC’s Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She lives in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains with her husband, just a short distance from two of her three sons and her six grandchildren. Connect with Cindy at her website.
Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of four. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. More recently she and Cindy have coauthored five books, one of which was a winner of the prestigious Christy Award.
What about you? What makes you want to read Until Then by Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall?