The Forgiven: Keepers of the Promise

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9781628993417: The Forgiven: Keepers of the Promise
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Central Pennsylvania, current day: Rebecca Fisher gladly accepted her husband Paul’s dreams as her own, but now that he has passed away, she’s struggling to raise two children and keep her home. Renting her stable to carpenter Matthew Byler offers a partial solution — even though Matthew has a troubled history, having sometimes failed to embrace Amish beliefs. As Matthew seeks to prove himself, Rebecca realizes how dependent she has become on others. Where can she find the courage to grow and change?

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About the Author:

A lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led Marta Perry to write about the Plain People who add to the rich heritage of her home state. She is the author of more than fifty inspirational romance novels, including the Pleasant Valley series and the Keepers of the Promise trilogy. She lives with her husband in a century-old farmhouse.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:



Rebecca Lapp Fisher, widow of Paul Fisher; mother of Katie, 7, and Joshua, 5

Simon Lapp, Rebecca’s brother

Elizabeth Lapp, Rebecca’s grandmother

Barbara “Barbie” Lapp, Rebecca’s cousin

Judith Wagler, Rebecca’s cousin

Matthew Byler, a furniture maker

Silas Byler, Matthew’s uncle; husband of Lovina

Isaiah Byler, son of Silas and Lovina; Matthew’s cousin; Sadie’s brother

Sadie Byler, daughter of Silas and Lovina; Matthew’s cousin; Isaiah’s sister

Anna Esch, Lapp family ancestor; lived through World War II

Jacob Miller, Anna Esch’s beau

Seth Esch, Anna’s brother


ach. oh; used as an exclamation

agasinish. stubborn; self-willed

ain’t so. A phrase commonly used at the end of a sentence to invite agreement.

alter. old man

anymore. Used as a substitute for “nowadays.”

Ausbund. Amish hymnal. Used in the worship services, it contains traditional hymns, words only, to be sung without accompaniment. Many of the hymns date from the sixteenth century.

befuddled. mixed up

blabbermaul. talkative one

blaid. bashful

boppli. baby

bruder. brother

bu. boy

buwe. boys

daadi. daddy

Da Herr sei mit du. The Lord be with you.

denke. thanks (or danki)

Englischer. one who is not Plain

ferhoodled. upset; distracted

ferleicht. perhaps

frau. wife

fress. eat

gross. big

grossdaadi. grandfather

grossdaadi haus. An addition to the farmhouse, built for the grandparents to live in once they’ve “retired” from actively running the farm.

grossmutter. grandmother

gut. good

hatt. hard; difficult

haus. house

hinnersich. backward

ich. I

ja. yes

kapp. Prayer covering, worn in obedience to the Biblical injunction that women should pray with their heads covered. Kapps are made of Swiss organdy and are white. (In some Amish communities, unmarried girls thirteen and older wear black kapps during worship service.)

kinder. kids (or kinner)

komm. come

komm schnell. come quick

Leit. the people; the Amish

lippy. sassy

maidal. old maid; spinster

mamm. mother

middaagesse. lunch

mind. remember

onkel. uncle

Ordnung. The agreed-upon rules by which the Amish community lives. When new practices become an issue, they are discussed at length among the leadership. The decision for or against innovation is generally made on the basis of maintaining the home and family as separate from the world. For instance, a telephone might be necessary in a shop in order to conduct business but would be banned from the home because it would intrude on family time.

Pennsylvania Dutch. The language is actually German in origin and is primarily a spoken language. Most Amish write in English, which results in many variations in spelling when the dialect is put into writing! The language probably originated in the south of Germany but is common also among the Swiss Mennonite and French Huguenot immigrants to Pennsylvania. The language was brought to America prior to the Revolution and is still in use today. High German is used for Scripture and church documents, while English is the language of commerce.

rumspringa. Running-around time. The late teen years when Amish youth taste some aspects of the outside world before deciding to be baptized into the church.

schnickelfritz. mischievous child

ser gut. very good (or sehr gut)

tastes like more. delicious

Was ist letz? What’s the matter?

Wie bist du heit. How are you; said in greeting

wilkom. welcome

Wo bist du? Where are you?


Elizabeth Lapp made her way slowly and carefully up the steep attic stairs. It was nonsense, this insistence on the part of her children and grandchildren that she change the habits of a lifetime. Seventy-six wasn’t old, even if that young doctor acted as if she were teetering on the brink of the grave.

Pausing, she gripped the railing, grateful for its support as she caught her breath. Ach, maybe she was getting on in years, but that didn’t mean she had nothing to contribute. There was an important legacy to be passed on, and she’d promised herself she wouldn’t delay any longer.

Her three granddaughters would be arriving at the old farmhouse soon. Before they appeared, she needed to take one more look at the treasures collected in the attic.

Cautiously, conserving her strength, she made her way to the top and paused again, feeling a flash of annoyance at how shallow her breathing was. The straight chair she’d used on her last trip to the attic stood where she’d left it. Using her cane as a hook, she drew it toward her and sat.

Sunlight streamed through the window and played across the dozens of objects jammed into the space. Amazing, how quickly the attic of the old farmhouse had filled up. Her quest had begun with one small dower chest belonging to a great-aunt. She’d rescued it from being sent to auction at the annual spring mud sale, and it had lit a spark in her heart.

She’d known then what had to be done. Family memories, the whole history of one Amish family in America, were bound up in the items she’d collected in her attic. That history couldn’t be allowed to die. Someone must see that it lived on.

Advancing years had caught up with her, and before the farmhouse was sold to a distant cousin, before she moved into her son’s house, the memories must be passed on. That was why her granddaughters were coming today.

Getting to her feet, she made her way across the rough-hewn floorboards, touching a spinning wheel here, a hand-carved rocking horse there. Each of these things must find a new home. It was too much to expect that any one person would take all of them.

She’d hammered out her plan during the long, sleepless nights after the loss of her beloved William. The gifts must be made to the right person. Each object had a story to tell, and each story could influence the person who received it. She breathed a silent prayer, knowing she must rely on God to show her the way.

It all began with the girls. She smiled. None of the three would appreciate being called a girl; each considered herself a woman grown. And so they were, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have something to learn from the past.

Rebecca. Judith. Barbara. She pictured each one in her mind’s eye. Rebecca, so lost since the death of her young husband more than a year ago. Judith. She frowned a little. Something was wrong there, but self-contained, quiet Judith would not talk about it, making it more difficult to know what to do. And Barbara. Barbie always brought a smile to her grossmammi’s lips, with her pert, lively manner and her almost automatic rebellion against the restrictions of Amish life. Those three were the only ones of the right age to take on the task.

Elizabeth stood, resting her hand on a dower chest, and faced the truth. This was, most likely, the final challenge of her life. To find the object that would speak to each one of her granddaughters and, through that, to entrust to their generation the promise of their family story.


Rebecca Fisher hadn’t summoned her family to meals with the bell on the back porch since Paul died. Today wasn’t the day to start, she decided. Instead she stood at the railing and called.

“Katie! Joshua! Come to supper.”

She stayed on the porch until she saw her two kinder running toward the farmhouse. Katie came from the big barn, where she’d been “helping” Rebecca’s father and brother with the evening chores. Katie adored her grossdaadi and Onkel Simon, and Rebecca was grateful every day that Katie had them to turn to now that her own daadi was gone.

Joshua had clearly been up in the old apple tree by the stream, which was his favorite perch. Paul had talked about building a tree house there for Joshua’s sixth birthday. That birthday would come soon, but Paul wasn’t here to see it. Rebecca’s throat tightened, and she forced the thought away.

“Mammi, Mammi.” Joshua flung himself at her, grabbing her apron with grubby hands. “Guess who I saw?”

“I don’t know, Josh. Who?” She hugged him with one arm and gathered Katie against her with the other. Katie let herself be embraced for a moment and then wiggled free.

“I helped put the horses in,” she reported. “Onkel Simon said I’m a gut helper.”

“Mammi, I’m talking.” Joshua glared at his sister. “Guess who I saw?”

“Hush, now.” Rebecca hated it when they quarreled, even though she remembered only too well how she and her brothers and sisters had plagued one another. She shooed them into the kitchen. “Katie, I’m wonderful glad you’re helping. Joshua, who did you see?”

It had probably been an owl or a chipmunk—at five, Joshua considered every creature he encountered to be as real as a person.

“Daadi!” Joshua grinned, unaware of the hole that had just opened up in his mother’s stomach.

“Joshua—” She struggled to find the words.

“That’s stupid,” Katie declared from the superiority of her seven years. Her heart-shaped face, usually so lively and happy, tightened with anger, and her blue eyes sparkled with what might have been the tears she wouldn’t shed. “Daadi’s in heaven. He can’t come back, so you can’t see him, so don’t be stupid.”

“Katie, don’t call your brother stupid.” Rebecca managed the easier part of the correction first. She knelt in front of her son, feeling the worn linoleum under her knees as she prayed for the right words. “Joshua, you must understand that Daadi loves you always, but he can’t come back.”

“But I saw him, Mammi. I saw him right there in the new stable and—”

“No, Josh.” She had to stop this notion now, no matter how it pained both of them. “I don’t know what you saw, but it wasn’t Daadi.”

His small face clouded, his mouth drooping. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.” Her heart hurt as she spoke the words, but they had to be said. Paul was gone forever, and they must continue without him.

“Go and see, Mammi.” Josh pressed small hands on her cheeks, holding her face to ensure she paid attention. “Please go look in the stable.”

Obviously, it was the only thing that would satisfy him. “All right. I’ll go and look. While I do that, you two wash up for supper.”

Josh nodded solemnly. Rebecca rose, giving her daughter a warning look.

“No more talking about this until I come back. You understand?”

Katie looked as if she’d like to argue, but she nodded as well.

Pausing to see them headed for the sink without further squabbling, Rebecca slipped out the back door.

A quick glance told her there was no further activity at the main barn now. Probably her daad and brother had finished and headed home for their own supper.

It wasn’t far across the field to the farmhouse where she’d grown up. That field would be planted with corn before too long. Daad had mentioned it only yesterday, and she’d thought how strange it seemed that Paul wasn’t here to make the decision.

Turning in the opposite direction, Rebecca skirted the vegetable garden. Her early onions were already up. In a few weeks the danger of frost would be over, and she could finish the planting.

Beyond the garden stood the posts from which the farm-stay welcome sign should hang. If she was going to open to visitors this summer, she’d have to put it up soon. If. She had to fight back panic at the thought of dealing with guests without Paul’s support.

The farm-stay had been Paul’s dream. He’d enjoyed every minute of their first season—chatting with the guests, showing them how to milk the cows or enlisting their help in cutting hay. It had seemed strange to Rebecca that Englischers would actually pay for the privilege of working on the farm, but it had been so.

She’d been content to stay in the background, cooking big breakfasts, keeping the bedrooms clean, doing all the things she’d be doing anyway if the strangers hadn’t been staying with them.

Last summer she’d been too devastated by his death to think of opening, but now . . . Well, now what was she to do? Would Paul expect her to go on with having guests? She didn’t know, because she’d never imagined life without him.

The stable loomed ahead of her, still seeming raw and new even though it had been up for more than a year. They’d gone ahead with the building even after Paul’s diagnosis, as a sign that they had faith he would be well again.

But he hadn’t been. He’d grown weaker and weaker, and eventually she had learned to hate the sight of the stable that had been intended for the purebred draft horses Paul had wanted to breed. She never went near the structure if she could help it.

Now she had to steel herself to swing open one side of the extra-large double doors. She stepped inside, taking a cautious look around. Dust motes danced in a shaft of sunlight, but otherwise it was silent and empty. The interior seemed to echo of broken dreams.

Sucking in a breath, Rebecca forced herself to walk all the way to the back wall, her footsteps hollow on the solid wooden floorboards. No one was here. Joshua’s longing for his daadi had led him to imagine what he hoped for.

A board creaked behind her and Rebecca whirled, heart leaping into her throat.

A man stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the light so that she couldn’t make out his face. But Amish, judging by his clothes and straw hat, so not a stranger. The man took a step forward, and she could see him.

For a long moment they simply stared at each other. Her brain seemed to be moving sluggishly, taking note of him. Tall, broad-shouldered, with golden-brown hair and eyes. He didn’t have a beard, so she could see the cleft in his chin, and the sight stirred vague memories. She knew him, and yet she didn’t. It wasn’t—

“Matt? Matthew Byler?”

A flicker of a smile crossed his face. “Got it right. And you’re little Becky Lapp, ain’t so?”

“Rebecca Fisher,” she corrected quickly. So Matt Byler had returned home to Brook Hill at last. Nothing had been seen of him among the central Pennsylvania Amish since his family migrated out west when he was a teenager.

Matt came a step closer, making her aware of the height and breadth of him. He’d grown quite a lot from the gangling boy he’d been when he left. “You married Paul Fisher, then. You two were holding hands when you were eight or nine, the way I remember it.”

“And you were . . .” She let that trail off. Matt had been a couple of years older than they were, and he’d been the kind of boy Amish parents held up as a b...

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9780425271414: The Forgiven (Keepers of the Promise)

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Marta Perry
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