I so enjoyed the characters in this book, made me wish I lived there! A perfect Rural Town America, and most everyone was looking out for another. When Alex Armstrong arrived in North Dakota, the people of Hilltop Township, did not expect the new Minister to stay. Love all the food arriving, and it warmed my Heart with the arrival of Tripod! You can see God's Hand in his calling Alex here, and he warms up to Country life real fast. From the beginning you wonder if the two churches involved in sharing this Minister will ever be brought back together. There are hurts that have lasted decades, and some hands that held out are left hanging. You will adore the Character Will, and his Hoomain Society. He sounds so cute, and full of mischief...I for one cannot wait to read the next book to find out how things come along, and renew old friendships!
I received this book from the Publisher Guideposts, and was not required to give a positive review.
This book was really great. The characters are all so likable! Judy Baer has a gift for drawing you into her story lines and making you feel as though you want to move to Hilltop. Cannot wait for the next one in this series (please hurry)! Thanks for a great read!
“Uncle Alex! Look out for that pig!” Love the first line. Alex, the new minister in town has to navigate more than pigs in this small town, there’s cows, chickens, single women and things he can’t see and/or know to look for. This was Alex’s first ministering job at the age of forty-two it’s scary. Having lived in the city all of his life and only seeing farms in movies and on TV was one thing, but actually living with land and animals quite another story.
Jared, Alex’s nephew screams as he looks at the church, “It’s like a photograph…or a movie set! It doesn’t even look real…Uncle Alex it’s like we’re on another planet.”
Alex had to agree as they drove around town, he felt as if they were “driving thru a Norman Rockwell painting. “ He likes what he sees and hopes he’s heard God correctly in accepting this position. He prays, “Here I am Lord. You’ve taken me a long way from home in so many ways. It is like another universe. What had he signed up for?”
Alex learns about a new twist to his ministry. He would be the pastor of two churches, neither one could afford a full-time pastor of their own so they shared in the expense of bringing Alex here. The board expected him to preach at both churches every Sunday morning. He soon discovers that these two churches are polar opposites of each other. He felt warmth and welcome from the people at Hilltop. Alex is overjoyed by the warm welcome and love shown to him by the members of Hilltop church and all the food they bring over is amazing. But things were a little chilly at All Saints; everything was done by the book. A book Alex hadn’t read and didn’t know how the rules. Oh, God help him.
.A sign said, “Welcome to Grassy Valley, North Dakota, City Population 1,254. A Place Like Home!” Alex wanted the sign to be true for his life. He loved what he saw in the land and community of Grassy Valley. He just had to learn how to warm up the members of the All Saints church.
He his secretary at Hilltop she says, “People tend to meddle in each other’s business around here. You’ll get used to it. Why, sometimes word gets out about what I’ve done before I’ve even gotten around to doing it!”
Alex is soon convinced that God has called him to this place and set the mission of helping these two churches be united in love. Alex is also compelled to help the farmers in any way he can keep their farms. This wasn’t ordinary land; these were farms that have been in the family business for generations.
Judy Baer paints a town much like Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show. Alex is single and new to town that makes him a target for the single girls. That’s why Alex was getting all the food, young ladies were hoping he’d notice them and their cooking. This makes for fun times in the book. Alex learns about farming from a whole new angle. There is more to fruit and veggies than buying them in the grocery store.
I felt the town itself was as much a character in the book as well as the loveable quirky cast Judy has put together. You only learn a little bit about each one in this book as she sets up the beginning of the Forever Hilltop series. This is a lighthearted story filled with laughter, fun adventure and truth learned along the way. I can’t wait to read the next one.
Nora St.Laurent The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org Finding Hope Through Fiction www.psalm516.blogspot.com
What a wonderful, gentle read. If you are like me and like to "people-watch," this is a wonderful way to feed the habit. Seriously, I've fallen in love with the Hilltop community. Even with those at All Saints Church. The author has done a great job in creating characters so real they could be your family members, friends, and acquaintances. She shows through each of these characters and the difficult circumstances they face that God is in the business of restoring and strengthening His people. I love seeing this rural community through the eyes of city-dweller Pastor Alex Armstrong. An Unlikely Blessing isn't my usual preferred genre of mystery, suspense, or adventure, but it is a wonderful book to curl up with when you need something gentle and loving. If you loved Jan Karon's Mitford books and Father Tim, you'll love Judy Baer's An Unlikely Blessing.
Bachelor at age forty-two and a tenured professor, Alex decides to move to a new profession – the ministry. His first assignment is a small two-church parish in rural North Dakota. For a lifelong city dweller, life was getting very interesting. His reception at one church is very warm while down the road his decidedly cool. Something divides these churches. Can the breach be healed? As Alex meets his parishioners he is faced with serious problems. What can be done for the family on the brink of losing their farm? It would be the first farm in this ethnic community passed on to unknown owners. How can Alex approach Alf who may have accidentally started the fire that took the lives of his first wife and young son? Alf practically runs the “other” church. Can Alex get beyond Alf's antagonistic shell and minister to the hurting man within? And then there are all the single women bringing him meals and potential affection. Alex truly believes God has called him to this rural community but has he come into a situation that is beyond his abilities? Alex begins to see God's grace in action. Sometimes it is just small things like flowers and kittens. At other times he sees lives changed in a way only God could do. While his faith is being tested in ways he never expected, he soon realizes he is learning and changing too. If you like Jan Karon's Father Tim, you'll like Alex. Bear (author of over 75 books) has created one of those novels that cause you to say with pleasure when you finish, “Oh, that was good.” This book was provided for review by Guidposts.
An Unlikely Blessing is truly a blessing to read. This is a wonderful book with a beautiful insight in a new pastor's life and flock; even if his flock is comprised of two separate churches in two different communities.
Judy Baer brings to life the community of Hilltop Township which is located in North Dakota. Here I got to meet the new pastor, a city fella named Alex Armstrong. Now I could relate to his feeling a bit out of his comfort zone in moving from the city to a small country community. I did the same when I moved from the big city to be with my husband on the family property just outside of a very small farming town. So when Alex found himself feeling a bit like a fish out of water, I understood.
I particularly liked how Judy allowed her new pastor to feel trepidation, uncertainty, and all of the other emotions a real person experiences when stepping into a new situation, position and leadership. Also, I enjoyed watching the developing love and concern for each person(s) in Hilltop in Alex. I look forward to reading more of this new series and discovering how Alex and his flock(s) are going to resolve their various problems. Definitely a series I will recommend!
I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Welcome to the Hilltop Township of Grassy Valley, North Dakota. Judy Baer sets the scene for her Forever Hilltop series in the first installation, An Unlikely Blessing. The novel introduces readers to Alex Armstrong, a new pastor who moves from the big city to a rural farming community in the open plains of North Dakota. From the minute Alex drives into Grassy Valley he witnesses the unique flavor of life in an agricultural town. Nothing can say “welcome to the country” quite like a traffic jam created by an overturned truck and an escaped pig named Twinkle Toes. As Alex settles into his new life, he faces an array of obstacles, ranging from driving on gravel roads, to learning names and family histories, to helping his parishioners overcome daunting challenges. Alex discovers an abundance of unexpected complexities, but he also learns that his new home offers unexpected blessings and friendships.
Alex’s story is not concluded in An Unlikely Blessing; there are questions that are left unanswered and problems that are not completely resolved. I generally prefer each novel in a series to have more definite and complete conflict resolutions, but the loose ends are reminiscent of real life, which is not neatly contained in 263 pages.
I do not doubt that many readers will greatly enjoy this novel. Baer paints a vivid and beautiful picture of North Dakota. The story’s unhurried pace captures the charms and challenges of small-town life. As a reader, it is easy to empathize with Alex’s struggle to find his place in a township where citizens’ roots are several generations deep. Likewise, I related to Alex’s concern over remembering the names of his parishioners and other people in the township. I often had difficulty recalling the significance of certain characters. The main characters are likeable, and the charming quirks that define some of the townspeople will engage readers. An Unlikely Blessing lays out the Hilltop welcome mat, and readers who enjoyed their first visit will eagerly await their second to finish old chapters and open new chapters in Alex’s life.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
An Unlikely Blessing is a promising start to Judy Baer's new series, Forever Hilltop. I was originally drawn to the series by its setting in the rural midwest. The small town setting, the Scandinavian ancestry of the main characters, and the sister churches all struck a chord in me. I wanted to see what story Judy Baer would create in that familiar situation.
I wasn't disappointed in An Unlikely Blessing. I was immediately drawn into the story and the lives of the characters just as Alex was as he met them. As the story unfolded, it became apparent that Judy was setting this up to be a series, with hints of stories yet to unfold, and characters yet to be met. At times, I was disappointed in the fact that I'd have to wait to know more about it, but it did whet my appetite to read the rest of the series.
Judy's characters are likable, and most of them seem real. A few of the characters seemed a bit over-the-top, though I don't doubt that there are people out there just like them. I enjoyed An Unlikely Blessing, and definitely recommend it to others.
(I received this book free for review purposes, and this is my honest review.)