Kim Vogel Sawyer’s titles have garnered a number of honors, including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Her latest novel is Ours for a Season (WaterBrook): An Old Order Mennonite couple’s vows and beliefs are challenged in this stirring contemporary novel for fans of Cindy Woodsmall or Shelley Shepherd Gray. In this interview, Kim shares the particular way that Old Order Mennonites view infertility, the real-life ghost town that inspired the novel’s setting, and why the book was written in memory of a dear friend…
Tell us about your new novel, Ours for a Season…
Ours for a Season probably combines the most incompatible list of themes I’ve ever tried to meld into a single story: infertility, marital discord; questioning one’s faith; life-long friendship; homelessness; a serious health challenge; rebuilding a ghost town… But if I were to encapsulate it all into one thematic idea, I would say this is a story about starting anew.
There’s a wonderful old hymn with the phrase, “Morning by morning new mercies I see…” That is what this story is about: God’s mercies blooming fresh in people’s lives.
The book captures Anthony and Marty Hirschler’s—an Old Order Mennonite couple—struggle with infertility and the effects it has on their marriage. How did their beliefs and community make this reality even harder for Marty to bear?
In the Old Order communities, children are the inheritance of the Lord. Psalm 127:5 says, “Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them [children].” Being a wife and mother is a woman’s highest calling; raising a large family to love and serve the Lord is a man’s highest calling. When the home remains absent of children, feelings of failure, bitterness, and jealousy are nearly impossible to avoid.
Both Marty and Anthony dealt with these emotions but expelled them in different ways, which of course led to conflict between them. The situation was hardest on Marty who, as a homemaker, faced the reminder of her empty house every day.
Most of the book takes place in a Kansas ghost town. What inspired you to create this setting? Being from Kansas yourself, are there any real places that remind you of the ghost town?
Several years ago, my critique partners and I visited a nearly abandoned Kansas town called Elgin. The crumbling buildings in the business district made my heart ache. One could imagine the once-thriving community and the pride the owners must have taken in operating their stores.
One of my critique members commented that it was too bad we didn’t have the money to bring everything back to life, and the idea of restoring the historical structures sort of got tangled with the idea of rebuilding broken spirits and emerged in this story.
One of the main storylines is Marty’s friendship with her childhood friend, Brooke Spalding. With such different personalities and beliefs, their connection seems so unlikely. What message of friendship were you hoping readers would glean from their story?
I’ve always been a little envious of women whose friendships go back to childhood. I moved so much as a child that I really didn’t have friends for very long.
But in my early twenties I met a woman (she was my boss at the time) a few years older than me and very different in personality, aspirations, and background. Somehow, a friendship blossomed between us and she remains my dearest friend.
We call each other soul sisters—she truly is the sister of my heart. Friendship is such an incredible gift. We—especially women—need the support and camaraderie of trusted friends. It was a true joy to bring the friendship between these two very different women to life.
The book is in memory of your dear writing friend and author Diann Hunt. Can you tell us more about how she inspired this story?
Diann died in December of 2013 after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. Although the cancer ravaged her body, it never stole her faith or her infectious love for life.
She wrote on Facebook on a day when she was feeling particularly low physically, “Stop! Right where you are. What do you see? Taste? Feel? Smell? Hear? Root yourself in this very moment. Memorize it. Life is made up of these. Don’t be so consumed by the past or with the future that you are blinded to your moment. Right now. The one you’re given by Almighty God to make a difference. Go out and live for Jesus today, my friends! I mean REALLY live!! You can do it! Start now. Ready. Set. Go!”
She so loved Jesus (she glowed Jesus) and she so loved laughter (you couldn’t help but laugh when in her presence) and so loved life… She’s been gone now for several years, but she lives in the hearts and memories of her family members and many who had the pleasure of calling her friend.
Brooke and Marty were to each other what Diann was to many of us—steadfast, encouraging, and ever loving. She wanted to make a difference, just as Brooke wanted to make a difference. Brooke did, and so did Diann.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Although it might sound like a platitude, it is really true that God brings beauty from ashes. He works in ways we cannot see to bring about joy and fulfillment in our lives.
I hope seeing God’s plan played out on the page for Marty, Anthony, Brooke, and the ones with whom their lives intersected will encourage readers to trust God’s purpose for the heartaches in their lives.
Visit Kim Vogel Sawyer’s author page:
Ours for a Season
Kim Vogel Sawyer