It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
As a boy, Jerry Eicher spent eight years in Honduras where his grandfather helped found an Amish community outreach. As an adult, Jerry taught for two terms in parochial Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. He has been involved in church renewal for 14 years and has preached in churches and conducted weekend meetings of in-depth Bible teaching. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Beside her she heard Jake’s deep, even breathing. She had grown accustomed to the comforting sound in the few short months since they’d been married. She laid back down on the pillow. Perhaps it was just her imagination. There was no sound—nothing to indicate something might be wrong.
But her heart beat faster—and fearfully. Something was wrong—but what?
“Jake,” she whispered, her hand gently shaking his shoulder. “Jake, vagh uff.”
“What is it?” he asked groggily. He spoke louder than she wished he would at the moment.
“I don’t know,” she whispered again and hoped he would get the hint. “I think there’s something outside.”
Jake listened and sat up in bed with his arms braced on the mattress.
“I don’t hear anything,” he said, a little quieter this time. “There are all kinds of noises in the mountains at night.”
“I think something is outside,” she insisted.
They both were silent a moment, waiting and listening. Hannah half expected Jake to lower his head back to his pillow, tell her the fears were a bad dream, and go back to sleep. Instead he pushed back the covers and set his feet on the floor.
Just then a loud snuff outside the log wall stopped him. They both froze. Hannah didn’t recognize the sound. No animal she knew ever made such a noise.
“It sounds like a pig,” Jake said, his voice low. “What are pigs doing out here at nighttime?”
“It’s not a pig,” Hannah whispered back. No stray pig, even in the nighttime, could create such tension. “It’s something else.”
“But what?” Jake asked, the sound coming again, seemingly right against the log wall.
Hannah lay rigid, filled with an overpowering sense that something large and fierce stood outside.
“I’m going to go see what’s out there.” Jake had made up his mind, and Hannah made no objection.
Jake felt under the bed for his flashlight and then moved toward the door. Somehow Hannah found the courage to follow but stayed close to Jake.
Their steps made the wooden floor creak, the only sound to be heard.
Jake slowly pulled open the wooden front door, his flashlight piercing the darkness as he moved it slowly left and then right.
“Nothing here,” he said quietly and then stepped outside.
Hannah looked around Jake toward the edge of the porch. “It was around the corner,” she whispered.
Jake walked slowly toward the corner of the house, but Hannah stayed on the porch near the front door.
Jake stopped momentarily and then stepped around the corner of the house. Hannah could only see a low glow from the flashlight. In the distance by the light of the moon, the misty line of the Cabinet Mountains accented the utter ruggedness of this country. During the day, the sight still thrilled her, but now that same view loomed dangerously.
For the first time since they’d moved into the cabin after their wedding, Hannah wondered whether this place was a little too much for the two of them. Was a remote cabin, a mile off the main road and up this dirt path into the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains, really what she wanted?
“It’s a bear!” Jake’s voice came from around the corner. “Come take a look—quick—before it’s gone.”
“Gone,” she whispered.
“Come see!” Jake’s urgent voice came again.
Again Hannah found courage from somewhere. She stepped around the corner of the house and let her gaze follow the beam of Jake’s flashlight, which now pierced the edge of the clearing around their cabin. At the end of the beam, a furry long-haired bear—as large as the one she’d seen once at the zoo—stood looking back at them, its head raised and sniffing the air.
“It’s a grizzly,” Jake said, excitement in his voice. “See its hump?”
“Then why are we out here?” Hannah asked, nearly overcome with the urge to run and desperate for solid walls between her and this huge creature.
“The men at the lumberyard said there aren’t many around,” Jake said in her ear. “Mostly black bears down in this area.”
“Shouldn’t we be inside?” she asked the question another way, pulling on his arm. “It’s not going away.”
“It will leave sooner if we stay in sight rather than go inside,” he told her, his light playing on the creature whose head was still in the air and turned in their direction.
“Well, I’m going inside,” she said, her courage now wholly depleted.
“It’s going,” Jake announced, and so she paused. They watched, fascinated, as the great creature bobbed its head and disappeared into the woods.
“It’s gone,” Jake said, a bit disappointed. “That was a grizzly.”
They turned back to the cabin, Hannah following Jake’s lead. As they stepped onto the porch, Hannah considered their front door. Suddenly the solid slat door—so bulky before—now looked thin, an unlikely protection against the hulk that had just disappeared into the dark tree line.
“What if it comes back?” she asked.
“It won’t. It’s just passing through,” he assured her. “They don’t like humans. They’re wanderers anyway. It’ll probably not come this way again—ever.”
Not reassured, Hannah shut the door tightly behind them and pushed the latch firmly into place.
“Bears hang around,” she told him. “This one could come back.”
“Then we’ll deal with it. Maybe the game warden can help. I doubt it will return, though.” Jake was fast losing interest and ready for his bed again.
Jake snuggled under the covers, pulling them tight up to his chin. “These are cold nights,” he commented. “Winter’s just around the corner. I have to get some sleep.”
Hannah agreed and pulled her own covers up tight. Jake’s job on the logging crew involved hard manual labor that required a good night’s sleep. She didn’t begrudge him his desire for sleep.
“I sure hope it doesn’t come back,” she said finally.
“I doubt it will,” he muttered, but Hannah could tell he was already nearly asleep.
To the sounds of Jake’s breathing, she lay awake and unable to stop her thoughts. Home, where she had grown up in Indiana, now seemed far away, a hazy blur against the fast pace of the past few months.
What is Mom doing? she wondered. No doubt she’s comfortably asleep in their white two-story home, secure another night just like the night before and ready to face another day just like the day before.
Thoughts of her earlier summers in Montana—tending to Aunt Betty’s riding stable—pushed into her mind. This country had seemed so glorious then, and she had dreamed of her return.
The wedding had come first. She smiled in the darkness while she remembered the special day. After a flurry of letters and Jake’s visits as often as he could, Betty got her wish for a wedding in Montana. Hannah’s mother realized it was for the best. Because the plans for Hannah’s wedding to Sam Knepp ended in a disaster back home in Indiana, Roy and Kathy decided they couldn’t have the wedding there and possibly face that embarrassment again. Even Jake was in favor of the wedding in Montana—here where they had met.
Their hearts were in Montana now—close to the land and the small Amish community in the shadow of the Cabinet Mountains. But lately Hannah asked herself if living out here in the middle of nowhere was really for their best. Then she was thankful that at least she was with Jake—better here with Jake than anywhere else without him.
But as she lay in the darkness unable to sleep, she found herself wishing for close neighbors. She wished she could get up now and walk to the front door, knowing that someone else lived within calling distance—or at least within running distance if it came to that. Now, with a bear around, a night wanderer with mischief on his mind, there was nowhere to go. She shuddered.
She wondered if she could outrun a bear and reach a neighbor’s house. She pictured herself lifting her skirt for greater speed. How fast can bears run? Can they see well at night to scout out their prey?
Hannah shivered in the darkness and listened to Jake’s even breathing, wondering how he could sleep after what they had just seen. A grizzly! Jake had been sure it was a grizzly they’d heard sniffing around their cabin just outside their bedroom wall. Why was Jake not more alarmed? He had even seemed fascinated, as if it didn’t bother him at all.
She had always thought she was the courageous one, the one who wanted adventure. After all, she had come out to Montana on her own that first summer. The mountains had fascinated her, drawn her in, and given her strength. But tonight those same mountains had turned on her and given her a bear for a gift—a grizzly. Even the stately pine trees, with their whispers that soothed her before, now seemed to talk of dark things she knew nothing about, things too awful to say out loud.
She turned in the bed, hoping she wouldn’t disturb Jake. She thought of his job on the logging crew, really a job of last resort. Yes, at first it was a blessing because they needed the income, but now it had become more and more of a burden. Jake didn’t complain, but the burden was apparent in the stoop of his shoulders when he came home at night. It revealed itself in his descriptions of how he operated the cutter, navigated the steep slopes, and worked with logs that rolled down the sides of the mountains. She also heard it in his descriptions of Mr. Wesley, his boss. She had met Mr. Wesley once when he had stopped by the house to interview Jake for the job. He operated the largest timber company in Libby, and his huge, burly form matched his position, nearly filling their cabin door that day. She had been too glad Jake had gotten the job to worry much about Mr. Wesley, but after he left she was glad she wouldn’t see him every day.
Hannah shivered again, feeling the sharp chill that seeped into the log house—the same one that seemed so wonderful in summer. Winter would come soon to this strange land, and neither she nor Jake had ever been through one here.
Hannah willed herself to stop thinking. Now she knew for certain. There had been something she wanted to tell Jake but had wanted to wait until she was sure. Now on this night—the night the bear came—she was certain. The strangeness puzzled her. How could a bear’s unexpected visit and this wonderful news have anything to do with each other?