Emma’s Gift is the sequel to Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly. I think you could read and understand the second book without the first one, but you’d get much more out of the story with both of them. Plus, since Julia’s Hope will probably be one of my favorite books read this year, I encourage you to read it, too.
In Julia’s Hope, Julia and her husband, Samuel Wortham, and their two children lost everything during the Depression. They were hitchhiking east to get a job with Samuel’s cousin when they got word that the job fell through. Totally alone and with no hopes, they find shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. Then Julia gets the idea that perhaps the owner would let them stay in return for fixing up the place. They find the owner, Emma, who is an elderly amputee who can no longer live alone. She agrees to the arrangement, much to the consternation of some of her friends who think the Worthams are taking advantage of her. Before long the Worthams suggest that Emma come back to the farmhouse and stay with them, which she agrees to do, and they become something of an adopted family for each other.
Emma’s Gift picks up the story several months later. Emma was not in good health in the last book and knew her time was soon coming to an end. She passes away near the beginning of this story. It’s not unexpected, yet it’s still a blow to the family. But then their neighbor, a mother of ten children, passes away the same night, totally unexpectedly. The Worthams take in the children while the woman’s husband, George, deals with his grief. While glad to help, and, really, having no choice, an addition of ten children, one a newborn, weighs heavily. Helping the children through their grief while dealing with their own is a challenge.
Uncertainty also weighs on both families as their houses and land were owned by Emma. Emma had tried to give the Worthams the deed to the house they were in, but Samuel refused at the time. George has been unable to make any payments for months, if not years, and Emma wanted to forgive the debt. But now her affairs are in the hands of her nephew, so everyone has to wait to see whether he’ll abide by Emma’s wishes or take the property as his own.
Some of the townspeople bring food out and stay to help with the children, which helps Julia to feel that they are finally accepted. Some of the men help Samuel deal with George, who is on the verge of doing something stupid.
Even though the first part of the book is heavy with grief, please don’t let that deter you. The light does break through in the end, and it’s heartwarming to see the progression.
The point of view switches back and forth between Julia and Samuel. Two themes emerged for me: that everyone has something to give to help others no matter how much or little they have, and when you’re weighed down almost to the breaking point, God’s grace sufficient.
A few favorite quotes:
It made me feel good inside to love her right over top all the rough edges.
Kissing cheeks, passing plates, even listening to George pour out his woes one more time over a late cup of root coffee—it was all the work of God. Because people need each other. And sometimes we don’t realize how much we have to give until we’ve started giving it.
It doesn’t take away the pain of this world. But just knowing the outcome can stop the ache that comes in the middle of some lonely night, or can give you words to make a crying child smile again. God is faithful. Our shelter in the time of trouble. Our refuge in the time of storm. We don’t always know what he’s given us. When we’re deep in the hurt of some awful moment, we don’t always know what good things God has prepared for the days ahead. But we do know so much of himself has been given to our hands. To cherish. To rest in. And especially to share.
These two books are all I have, but there is another sequel, and then another three-book series with some of the same characters as well as a Christmas story. I’d like to get to the rest of them some day. In looking up Leisha Kelly after reading the last book, I was sad to discover that she and her teenage son had died in a car accident some years ago. But I am glad she left this legacy behind.