THIS PASSING HOUR by Leslie Gould
SERIES: Amish Memories #2
GENRE: Dual Timeline / Amish Romance (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2023
After the death of her parents, Mennonite Brenna Zimmerman relocates to the Lancaster County farm of her Old Order Amish grandparents. There, she befriends Rylan Sanders, a disabled veteran, and commits to rising above her own grief to help him as much as she can. But when things take a turn for the worse, Brenna finds herself at a loss for what to do.
As Brenna struggles, her Mennonite friend Johann Mazur, a soldier in the Ukrainian Army, encourages her to distance herself from Rylan. But when she discovers that Rylan’s army buddies are withholding secrets that could help with his psychological healing, Brenna is torn between her feelings for Johann and her commitment to help Rylan.
Inspired by the story of her distant relative who served with the Red Cross and supervised German POWs during World War II, Brenna considers her own future and must decide whether she has the courage to give up the comforts she craves for the life she truly wants.
Bestselling author Leslie Gould continues her evocative Amish Memories series with a compelling dual-time tale set during World War II and present-day Lancaster County.
October 18, 2017
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
I hated the apartment. The hum of the dishwasher. The smell of the new paint. The scratchy carpet. The straight- back chairs and rickety table in the dining room. My secondhand desk and office chair.
Ivy, my older sister by three years, had convinced me to move out of our Amish grandparents’ farmhouse. We didn’t have internet on the farm and had to do our coursework at the closest coffee shop, which closed at five. That was a problem for two college students.
I had hoped I was ready to move out. I wasn’t.
“You need to start thinking about more than yourself,” Ivy said to me as I stared at my backpack on the table. “It’s been over three years.”
She didn’t say since Mom and Dad died. She didn’t have to.
“Remember what Chet told us at their service?”
I’d never forget. Chet was the principal of the high school where Dad had taught in Oregon. He’d told my sisters and me, “I hope, in time, all three of you will follow your parents’ footsteps and serve others even more than you already are.” Except I wasn’t serving anyone then, unlike my sisters. And I hadn’t served anyone since. Also unlike my sisters.
I chomped on my gum.
“You could start by taking Treva to the airport on Friday. That would be a really big help. I can’t skip class—and you don’t have class. Mammi said you could take off work.”
“I hate driving in Philadelphia.”
“It’s just to the airport. All you have to do is put the address in your phone.” Ivy put a hand on her hip. “You’re better at geography than any of us.”
Just because I have a thing for geography didn’t mean I liked driving anywhere near big cities. I didn’t like driving at all. I only did it because I had to.
“It’s time to step up,” Ivy said.
No doubt it was. I grabbed my backpack off the table and slung it over my shoulder. “I need to drop a box of china by the store before class starts.” Our paternal grandmother had an antique store where I worked. “Class is from ten to noon. It takes a half hour to get there, but with the stop by the store I need to leave now.” It was 8:45. I hated to be late for anything. I started toward the door.
“Brenna!” Ivy stomped after me—or tried to, but she was wearing fuzzy slippers, so her stomps were just little puffs on the carpeted floor. She was five inches shorter than I was, but I always felt as if she towered over me. “Will you take Treva?” I opened the front door. “I’ll think about it.” I stepped out into the chilly morning, grateful I’d put tights on under my denim skirt and wore my puffy jacket. I headed toward Mom’s van in the parking lot. I’d inherited it when Ivy drove her old clunker Camry out from Oregon the summer before. I had two goals in life, and serving others, even though it was a foundation of our Mennonite church, wasn’t one of them. My goals were to somehow figure out how to create a life for myself and to be a functional adult. I had no expectations of actually being successful at either.
My phone dinged. I stopped at the back of the van and pulled it from the pocket of my jacket. Johann. I smiled as I read his message.
At work. I hope your classes go well today!
He was eight hours ahead of us, which would become seven after the time change.
Dyakuyu, I texted back. He was teaching me Ukrainian, which was complicated because it used the Cyrillic alphabet, although one slightly different than Russians used, instead of the Latin alphabet. There was a Ukrainian Latin alphabet, a transliteration. Johann was using that to teach me so I could learn vocabulary and pronunciation. Then we would concentrate on the Cyrillic spellings.
I headed around the side of the van to the driver’s door. “Hey!” a man yelled. “You!”
I opened the door, certain he wasn’t talking to me. “Hey! Girl! With the thing on your head.”
Maybe he was talking to me. My Mennonite prayer covering might seem like a “thing” to someone who didn’t know better.
I stepped to the back of the van and turned toward the voice. It belonged to a man standing next to a pickup. I recognized him. “Rylan Sanders.”
He leaned against his cane. “You know my name?”
I nodded, feeling a little creepy. I’d noticed him the first day of class and every class since. He looked the way I’d often felt in the past—anxious. One time the professor accidentally knocked a book off his table, and it made a loud pop as it hit the linoleum floor. I jumped—but Rylan jumped even more. After he realized what had happened, he ducked his head for at least five minutes. I’d also noticed that Rylan was thin and had a noticeable limp. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to his leg. I guessed a car accident or something. Today, he wore a black down jacket, a beanie over his short hair, and sports pants. “You’re in my information security class, right? On Mondays and Wednesdays?”
“Yes. I’m in your Tuesday and Thursday class too. I’m Brenna Zimmerman.”
“Got it,” he said. “I’ve noticed you. Probably—” He nodded toward me. “Because of that thing on your head.”
“It’s a Kapp,” I said. “A prayer covering.” He shrugged. “So, do you drive that van?” “Yes.”
He gestured toward his pickup with his free hand. “It won’t start.”
I paused a moment. Serve others. Ivy was right. I needed to stop thinking about myself all the time. Here was my chance to help someone else—even though I hated to give people rides. It made me nervous. “I can take you to class, although I only have the one today.”
He smiled. “Same.”
“Hop in.” I winced. That was a stupid thing to say. “Thank you.” He came around the back of the pickup.
“I’ll get my buddies to look at my truck.”
I was relieved to hear that he had buddies. At least he wasn’t without some sort of support. That had made all the difference for me. There were times when my family and community seemed suffocating, but I’d be lost without them.
He turned toward the passenger side of his vehicle and opened the door. Then he leaned his cane against the side and pulled a backpack out of the front seat.
I hit the unlock button on the fob in my hand and started toward the driver’s door of the van, taking a few deep breaths. I expected the ride to be awkward—everything I did was awkward. My therapist advised me to embrace the awkwardness and not try to change it. Just be your awkward self had become one of my many mantras.
Rylan came around the passenger side of the van, opened the sliding door and swung his backpack onto the floor, and then climbed into the passenger seat, positioning his cane to the right of his legs.
I fastened my seatbelt and turned on the engine. I decided not to go by Mammi’s store before class. I’d go after. I didn’t want to chance being late.
Before I put the car into drive, I thought through arriving at the college, just as I thought through the details of every- thing. Every errand. Every class. Every trip. Every workday at Mammi’s antique store. Every social event, which were nearly nonexistent.
I would drop Rylan off and then park. “What are you waiting for?” he asked. “Your seatbelt.”
He didn’t move. “Are you a mother or something?” “Fasten it.” I knew what happened when seatbelts were fastened. I didn’t want to imagine what might happen if one wasn’t.
“Yes, ma’am.” He did as he was told, and I backed out of the space.
Neither of us spoke. After what seemed like an hour but was only a few minutes, I turned west onto Highway 30 and headed toward the city of Lancaster.
Ivy had chosen the apartment in the village of Gap because it was about twenty miles to the community college to the west and fifty miles to her graduate program in Philadelphia to the east. Mammi’s store, on Dawdi’s farm, was less than ten miles to the northwest.
There was an openness to Lancaster County that I found inspiring. It wasn’t like the vast openness of Utah and Wyoming that gave me fits of anxiety on our trip east. That was a sort of gloomy openness. This was an ordered openness of manicured farms and managed spaces. It was different than the foothills of Mount Hood, where I grew up, which were full of gullies and ravines and forests. That was a landscape that was gloomy in its own way with the constant shadows from the trees along the roadways.
Lancaster County was the antidote to that with its patch- work fields. Add the covered bridges, the white rail fences, and the changing leaves of October and the landscape was as much a work of art as an Amish quilt.
Once we were on the highway, Rylan said, “I didn’t think Amish people drove.”
“I’m Mennonite.” I pointed to my head as I kept my eyes on the road and my speed at fifty miles per hour in the fifty-five miles per hour zone. “This is a Mennonite Kapp. The Amish ones are heart shaped.” I sometimes wore heart-shaped Kapps at Mammi’s store if I was wearing an Amish dress and apron too.
“So Mennonites drive?”
“Most of us do.”
“Weird,” he said. “Although—” he grinned at me—“you’re not as weird as I’d expected.”
It seemed he thought I might take it as a compliment. I didn’t.
Leslie Gould, This Passing Hour
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2023. Used by permission.
Leslie Gould (LeslieGould.com) is a Christy Award-winning and #1 bestselling author of over forty-five novels, including four Lancaster County Amish series. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and an MFA in creative writing. She enjoys church history, research trips, and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, and have four adult children and two grandchildren.
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