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Sarah's Gift is a book that had been swimming around in the back of my mind for a long time before becoming a reality. When I had my three children, midwives were few and far between, and expectant mothers had very few options in the type of care they received. Not quite the bad old days, but nothing very enlightened, either!
Time passed, trends changed. I met a woman who was a midwife, increasing my interest. Gradually the idea of writing a novel about a midwife became strong enough that I knew its time had come. And since I’m writing Amish novels now, naturally she was going to be an Amish midwife.
But although I have many connections to the Amish community, I didn’t number a midwife among them. So I turned to my midwife friend, who had worked with Mary Hostettler, an Amish midwife, and almost before I knew what had happened, I had my connection.
As the time grew near for my talk with Mary, I became increasingly nervous. What would she think of the Amish books I write? Might she be offended at the idea of an outsider trying to convey the reality of Amish life to a general audience? What could I do or say that would show her the respect I had for the Amish and for the work that she does?
All my worries vanished within two minutes of conversation! Mary was friendly and gracious and eager to help me. As she talked about her practice and her years of experience in delivering babies, I could sense her dedication to her patients and her stubborn determination to do her very best for them and leave the rest in God’s hands.
I came away from that encounter with ideas swirling in my mind. Using Mary’s story as inspiration, I jumped into researching the story from every angle. I ran across a news story about another midwife to the Amish who had been charged with practicing medicine without a license, and a new facet of the story developed.
Soon I had a complete picture of Sarah, whose life is dedicated to helping her clients deliver healthy babies in the way they want, but who is unable to have babies of her own. My heart ached for Sarah as she struggled to establish her practice in a new place, to recognize that she might never find a man who could love her enough to accept her, to fight to keep her practice in the face of powerful opposition.
I began to fall in love with Aaron, the reluctant neighbor who wants nothing to do with a midwife but is drawn into helping Sarah. A strong man, with responsibilities and burdens of his own, Aaron discovers that he’s found his match in Sarah, as she forces him to confront all that he would prefer to keep hidden about himself.
And then there are the babies—lots and lots of babies, coming in all sorts of conditions. Some born at home, some at the birthing center, some arriving most inconveniently in the middle of a snowstorm, but all pushing their way into the waiting arms of a new mammi and daadi, with Sarah’s help.
Of all the books I’ve written, I think Sarah's Gift is really the book of my heart. I’ve never taken that expression too seriously until I wrote this book, and then I began to realize what it meant. When a book takes shape as if it has a life of its own, when it expresses the author’s most deeply held beliefs, then I suppose the book of my heart isn’t too strong a term to use.
- Marta Perry
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