Under the Heavens: Amish Horses series Book 1 by Thomas Nye
The author, a gifted storyteller, writes a tale about things close to his heart and based on his experiences: horses and the Amish. I was delighted to read this book because I’ve always loved horses, in spite of the lack of opportunity to feed that particular fascination, and I enjoy reading about the Amish. In addition, I soon realized once I started reading this book that it afforded me many trips down memory lane with every description of the farm our main character spends a summer living on.
Leonard’s foray into experiencing summer at his Amish cousins’ Iowa farm came at his grandfather Jesse’s request. He was an angry young teen who wished he was anywhere but on a farm. He lived in a city. Living on the farm would be like moving to a foreign country. The black, heavy storm clouds that blew in with him seemed to reflect his attitude perfectly. It didn’t take him long to sense that his Uncle Albert’s family was not exactly enthused about his presence with them either.
Grandpa Jesse, however, began to pour all his time and energy getting to know Lenny. Before he even realized it, the teen had entered into training as the farm’s Horse Boy. He didn’t object because he loved the horses, a fact that drew the two closer.
Being the Horse Boy wasn’t easy work. He woke up with the rooster crow. He had to learn from scratch all the nuances of using horses for farm work, while at the same time learning other chores he was expected to do in between, such as milking cows. There were plenty of cousins to share the jobs with, but they were always busy from sunup to sundown.
It occurred to Lenny that he had as much to learn from the horses as he did from his grandfather. To him the horses seemed to read his soul and his heart. Once he overcame his fear of the giant animals, he grew especially close to them, including the draft horse team, Tug and Train.
Lenny proved to be an apt pupil and a hard worker. He wanted to be respected, and as he immersed himself in farm life he began to leave his anger and bitterness behind. Eventually he became friends with one of the youngest cousins, Perry, who seemed to love horses as much as Lenny and Grandpa did. He was looking forward to being the Horse Boy the next summer. How Lenny is eventually able to win over the hearts of his Amish family and find a place for himself in this small community is what makes this a heartwarming read.
One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is the familiarity I have with the experience. When I was quite young, my grandparents had a small farm with dairy cattle. They used to have horses and chickens and a few pigs, but by the time I was elementary school age all that was left were the cows and the acreage supporting them. My grandfather’s tractors were small, so the implements were also small, and nearly identical to the ones described in this book. Each chapter drew out fresh memories, especially of the equipment Lenny was learning to use. In my mind’s eye I saw Grandpa’s farm instead of the Amish farm. The differences were due to the use of electricity in the barn, and more gas powered engines on the equipment. Some of the tractors used a drive train connected to the rakes, the mowers, the hay balers, and manure spreaders.
When I was deemed old enough not to get squashed by the bovine, I began to “help” grandpa with the milking. Some of my experiences were similar to Lenny’s, including a time when I was trapped between two cantankerous cows.
The author’s storytelling skills made me feel as if I were there with Lenny as he learned skills and consequently some self confidence. In my opinion, the author successfully creates a world his readers would love to visit and see for themselves.
A second reason I enjoyed this book is that Grandpa Jesse was able to show Lenny how nature shows us God’s heart, how much He loves us. Lenny was so much closer to nature on the farm that his eyes saw life in a whole new perspective. It changed him and made him a better person.
If you enjoy a tale that moves at a more leisurely pace, one that gives you a glimpse of a different lifestyle, a different culture, and has great character development, then I believe you would enjoy this book. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Book Crash on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”