To celebrate the final Big Sky novel, Beyond Hope’s Valley, I’m reposting the spotlight on Tricia Goyer’s leading Amish lady, Marianna Sommer.
After an extended stay in Montana, where Amish traditions are different than in her home state, Marianna Sommer returns to Indiana for two reasons, first to help her brother and his girlfriend prepare for a baby and their wedding. Second, to plan her own wedding to Aaron Zook — a marriage she’s been dreaming about ever since childhood. And yet, although she had missed the idyllic farms and families of her upbringing, Marianna is surprised that Indiana is somehow making her long now for Montana.
As months pass, secrets that were hidden in winter’s frozen grasp thaw and take on a life of their own. The truths about a child, about a past relationship, and about God’s plans are being revealed. Walking through a valley of questions, Marianna must hold on to hope as she decides where and with whom her heart truly belongs.
Enjoy meeting Marianna!
Brief physical description
Marianna Sommer is a petite Amish young woman with light brown hair and grey eyes.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strengths: She’s dedicated to her family and the Amish way of life. She has a loving a caring heart. She’s great in the kitchen and she has a fun sense of humor and quick wit—which many “Englischers” don’t expect.
Weaknesses: She cares about what others think more than she should. She also battles between how she’s been raised and what her heart it telling her to be true about God and others.
Your inspiration for the character
Marianna was inspired by Amish friends of mine. Spending time with them I found them fun, surprising and yet thoughtful, too. Sometimes we think that simple people are boring, but that’s not the case with my friends or Marianna either.
Background to the story
Every great novel starts with a bit of fact. This story started with more than that.
A few years ago I was asked if I’d ever consider writing an Amish novel. The truth is, I hadn’t. But the first seed of an idea was planted and my mind started to feed and water it. That’s how novels usually start.
Later that day, I remembered that my daughter had a friend, Saretta, whose parents were raised Amish. They moved from an Amish community in Indiana to Montana, and that is how we met. I also remember my daughter telling me Ora Jay and Irene lost two daughters in a buggy accident.
Hmmm, I thought. I’d love to hear their story. Maybe someday, if I see them again, I’ll ask. The next day, my daughter Leslie and I went out for some mom and daughter time. We went to a bookstore to browse and get coffee. As we looked over the bargain rack guessed who walked in … Saretta. We hadn’t seen her for six months at least and there she was. “Saretta,” I told her. “I think I’m supposed to talk to your parents—hear their story.” “Sure, I’m sure they’d love to talk to you!”
Less than a week later Ora Jay and Irene sat in my living room. They told me about being Amish, about losing their daughters, about their move. They also talked about their faith. They shared what the meant to be Amish. They shared how their faith had grown after moving to Montana. They shared many ways God had changed their lives and their hearts. I listened amazed. Their story added more water—the Living Water—and sunshine to the seed of a novel planted in my hearts. After talking to Ora Jay and Irene, I met many other Amish women from the West Kootenai Community. I was honored as they shared their lives with me.
While this story is still a work of fiction, I’ve tried to be as true to the lifestyle and faith of this Amish community. As you may know, each Amish community is different, depending on the place and rules of the church. While I may not have gotten everything right, I’ve tried hard that my words reflect truth. I trust they do.
Relz Reviewz Extras
Review of Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana