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Still Life in Shadows by Alice J. Wisler
River North, 24 July 2012

It’s been fifteen years since Gideon Miller ran away from his Amish community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a boy of fifteen. Gideon arrives in the Smoky Mountains town of Twin Branches and settles in at the local auto mechanic’s garage. He meets a host of interesting characters -the most recent acquaintances are Kiki, an autistic teen, and her sister Mari. Known as the “Getaway Savior” he helps other Amish boys and girls relocate to life in modern America.

One day the phone rings. On the other end is his brother Moriah calling from Florida. Of course Gideon welcomes his brother to stay with him and offers him a job. But Moriah is caught in a web which ends in his death and forces Gideon to return to the town of his youth, with his brother’s body in the back of a hearse and Mari and Kiki at his side. He must face not only the community he ran away from years ago but also his own web of bitterness. Will he be able to give his anger over to God and forgive his father?

Imagine that you’ve been driving along a very nice, well presented Main Street and you love it, you wouldn’t change a thing. It has everything you love on it. Then one day you spot a side street and on a whim you turn down it to have a little peek. It’s pretty with different shops you’ve never tried before but as you keep driving along the street you find that it has some of the same qualities as your beloved Main Street. You find yourself enjoying and wanting more of your time on this street.

This is what you’ll do when you pick up Alice J. Wisler’s Still Life in Shadows. While she’s firmly still in North Carolina driving along Contemporary Women’s Fiction’s Road, she takes you on a detour down a little side street and it’s a pleasant and eye-opening journey.

Like all her books set in North Carolina this is the story of Gideon Miller an ex-Amish man trying to deal with a past he’s still angry about. The sudden arrival of his younger brother throws Gideon’s world into chaos and we watch as he struggles to maintain his grip. Gideon also meets Kiki, a autistic teenager who tells the story from her point of view also. Kiki is trying to make friends and do the best she can in school and although she fumbles she wins Gideon’s heart and the reader’s with her refreshing honesty and zeal life.

As we switch between Gideon and Kiki and as the story’s events unfold we see forgiveness and moving forward with life is a lesson both Kiki and Gideon learn. Which they do, at different rates.

Still Life in Shadows provides a different perspective on the Amish community, but in no way denigrating it. I found this refreshing as I’m not into Amish fiction and gladly welcomed Alice’s fine writing and unique story telling to bring part of this world into my home.

Well done Alice – a great read!