At the beginning of September, fans of Wanda and Jean Brunstetter will have the chance to meet the authors and even dine with them in an Amish home.
The upcoming events are part of the Brunstetters’ tour promoting their book “The Hawaiian Quilt,” which follows the adventures of four young Amish women from Middlebury on a trip to Hawaii.
Wanda, in a phone interview, said she and her daughter-in-law Jean, will be doing several book signings along with the dinner Sept. 9.
“We’ve done it before,” Wanda said of the Amish dinner. “I’ve done it multiple times. Jean’s done it with me once – no two times. This particular Amish home, we are blessed to know the Amish lady (Linda Miller) who does the cooking personally. She does this with tour groups and any group around the area who wants to experience what’s it’s like to have dinner in an Amish home.”
J. Farvers Bookseller in Shipshewana set up the experience.
“I do know that the people who come to the dinners in the homes come eagerly anticipating being in an Amish home because some have never been,” Wanda said.
Those who attend will not only get to experience Amish cooking, but will also have an opportunity for a buggy ride before the meal. Wanda and Jean will speak after the meal and will also sign autographs.
“It’s a good experience for people who’ve never had this and good for people who have,” she said.
That communal experience of a meal in an Amish home is reflected in “The Hawaiian Quilt,” where two young Amish women, stranded in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii, develop a friendship with a Hawaiian couple who own and operate a bed and breakfast.
There are similarities between Hawaiians and Amish ways of life – most notably their family values and beautiful quilts, Wanda said.
Those similarities were noted by Wanda and her husband, Richard, and their son, Richard Jr. and his wife (and Wanda’s co-author) Jean after their travels to Hawaii.
“We’ve been playing with this idea for a couple of years,” Wanda said. “We were in touch with one of our Amish friends who were in the area there – in Indiana. I think her home is in Middlebury. She told us that she and a group of her friends – her girlfriends – got together. They saved up their money and planned a trip to Hawaii. They always wanted to go to Hawaii.”
The women went by train to California and took a cruise to Hawaii. They stopped at different islands.
“We were very fascinated with their stories of what it was like for them on the cruise ship and what it was like for them when they got to the islands. Because when we go, we stay on the same island for like a week. They could only be there one day so I was curious as to what they were able to see and do.”
Between all of those experiences, “the story just came together,” Wanda said. “We knew it would be different because most people don’t think about Amish going to Hawaii. It happens more than you realize.”
Although not every Amish person goes to Hawaii, she said, all who do go travel the same way – by cruise ship. They do not travel by plane unless it’s an emergency.
And so the story of Mandy Frey, Barbara Hilty, Ellen Lambright and Sadie Kuhns was born.
These four fictional friends go on a Hawaiian vacation before joining the church. They travel from port to port, until Mandy, who is seeing the sites of Kauai with Ellen, loses her cellphone. In her search for her cellphone, Mandy and Ellen lose track of time and miss the departure of their cruise ship. Their other two friends who are onboard don’t know what’s become of Mandy and Ellen.
Fortunately, the two stranded young women find a Christian couple, Luana and Makaio, who run a bed and breakfast and offer them refuge until they can make their way back home.
Mandy, who has uncertainties about joining the Amish church, finds the Hawaiian life beckoning to her. But can she leave her family and her boyfriend Gideon, for a new life and possibly a new love – a new ohana?
Mandy’s exploration of herself, her faith and what God’s will is for her life set in the midst of two different yet similar cultures is the glue that holds this story together. The Brunstetters still provide plenty of local Amish settings for fans, while introducing a Hawaiian household without making it seem hokey.
And the quilt?
Wanda explained that while on Maui, the Brunstetters purchased a quilt that is very similar to the blue-and-white quilt owned by Luana and Makaio and featured on the cover of the book.
The publishers, Shiloh Run Press, will be giving away that quilt, valued at more than $1,000, during a promotion of “The Hawaiian Quilt,” Wanda said.
Early print copies of the book will contain entry postcards for the quilt contest. Also, readers can enter to win the quilt online at www.AmishFictionBooks.com/Quilt. The deadline to enter is Nov. 1. The winner will be drawn Nov. 15.
On a personal note, Wanda and Jean, who live in Washington, said they are looking forward to their Indiana visit and hope to see many friends while here and attend the wedding of one of their Amish friends. “We’re very much looking forward to that,” Wanda said.
Many Amish read Wanda’s books and have told her that she depicts their lives accurately.
As one Amish bishop who reads Brunstetter’s books told her, “You’ve got to be with people in order to understand them.”
And she and Jean try to impart that understanding to others as accurately as possible.
Jean said that in this tour she will be traveling to Grabill, an Amish settlement in Indiana she’s never been to before. Mirroring her mother-in-law, co-author and mentor, Jean intends to put her pen to paper and learn about this particular Amish community. “I’m looking forward to places I haven’t been to still,” Jean said.
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Upcoming Wanda and Jean Brunstetter events:
- Sept. 7 — 10 a.m. to noon book signing at Yoder’s Hardware, 300 S Van Buren St., Shipshewana. For more information, call 260-768-4163.
- Sept. 9 — 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., dinner in an Amish home, hosted by J. Farvers bookseller, Shipshewana. Reservations are required. To reserve a spot for dinner, call 260-768-4339.
- Sept. 10 — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. book signing at J. Farvers Bookseller, 451 S. Van Buren St., Shipshewana. For more information, call 260-768-4339.
- Sept. 16 — 2 to 4 p.m. program and signing at the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne. For more information, call 260-421-1236.