Friday, February 04, 2011

An Unlikely Blessing by Judy Baer

An Unlikely Blessing

Book 1 in the Forever Hilltop Series

A new pastor tries to shepherd his flock in North Dakota

An Unlikely Blessing is a heartfelt story about a new pastor and life-long city dweller Alex Armstrong, who reluctantly accepts his first assignment, a two-point parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose-lovely and prickly all at once, much like the people who live there.

Alex quickly finds that this lovely place is in quiet peril. Farmers are struggling to make ends meet: Jonas Owens, a faithful member of Hilltop parish, is on the brink of losing the farm. Alex believes that part of why God called him to Hilltop was to help turn things around, and steps in with ideas for saving the Owens' land. But can even God's minister help save this rural community?

There are a lot of firsts for the new pastor-the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), King Oscar's fish balls, and the melody of the musical saw. And the new, single pastor creates remarkable excitement among the unmarried women in the community. If you could die of hot dish overdose, Alex would be a dead man. Whether performing weddings, counseling his flock, or herding cattle by snowmobile, Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him as he will teach them. Day by day, he falls more in love with the people of Hilltop Church. People may leave Hilltop, but Hilltop never leaves them.

Here is my review of this charming novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Judy Baer and her publisher for sending me a copy of "An Unlikely Blessing" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

“An Unlikely Blessing” by Judy Baer is a charming novel about a man embracing a mid-life career change when he is called to become a pastor. This uproots him from his big city home and the life he knows to relocate him to rural North Dakota. Alex Armstrong and his nephew, Jared, arrive in Hilltop Township after a considerable road trip only to be welcomed into Alex’s new adopted community with warm and unexpected hospitality.

I learned a great deal about rural churches and communities while reading this novel. It is fascinating that churches which cannot afford to hire a pastor of their own will partner with other churches in their area to hire one pastor to shepherd both flocks. The differences between these two churches added lots of spice to the book, as did Alex’s dealings with each. Churches and Christians are definitely “individuals” and must be dealt with on such bases. Ms. Baer paints a beautiful picture that can be taken from this work of fiction as a lesson for life.

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