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Tree of Life concludes our series about Shaker life in the 1830s.


book cover

Grace, at 15, is feeling the pinch of the simple Shaker life in 1839. She longs for the fashions, the flirtations, and the freedom of life in “the World” outside the village at Pleasant Hill.

Even when she thinks up creative, colorful patterns to use on her weaving loom, the Sisters sternly insist she churn out plain, ordinary items with no frills. She begs and begs, and is finally allowed to work with the precious silk thread from the village’s homegrown silkworms, but only after she painstakingly tends the special caterpillars.

When Grace learns she can attend the county fair in Harrodsburg, she schemes to escape the rigid rules of Shaker Village and start a new life somewhere — anywhere — more exciting than Pleasant Hill. Who knows when she’ll get another chance like this?

Grace weaves a shimmering silk scarf, with an intricate Tree of Life pattern, to secretly enter in the fair contest. She is sure she will win. She dreams of claiming the prize money and plunking it down for a stagecoach ticket to one of the big cities she’s heard about from the travelling Shaker peddlers and from Seth, the neighboring farmhand who romances her whenever the two can slip away.

But, Grace’s elaborate plan is dashed before it ever gets off the ground. She discovers the contest award won’t be enough to get her where she wants to go. Reeling with disappointment, she becomes mesmerized by the salesman at a patent medicine wagon. Colonel Barker promises to sneak Grace out of town in his wagon and take her with him to Cincinnati. The cost? All her prize money, and helping to sell bottles of his spiked health elixir along the way. The deal is to go down at dusk.

Then, Grace meets up with her best friends: Betsy, her Shaker roommate, and Ruth, a seamstress who had lived with the Shakers for a cruel winter.

Ruth reveals she is hiding a runaway slave at the tailor’s shop, a young girl named Saro. Ruth’s Underground Railroad contact has disappeared and bounty hunters, who have been terrorizing everyone in town, are closing in. Betsy and Ruth are counting on Grace’s good mind for tricky schemes to throw the bounty hunters off the track and save Saro.

The clock is ticking. It’s now or never—for both of them. Grace must choose between her own freedom and that of a slave girl she barely knows. Which will it be?

Two previous books set the stage for Grace's adventures.

Road to Pleasant Hill primarily focused on Betsy Johnson and her younger brother Tad who had to move to the Shaker Village after the disappearance of their father and the death of their mother. It offers glimpses of Shaker life in the 1830s as it follows Betsy through her adjustment to this new way of life, a new set of friends, and her eventual self-discovery of her gift for healing using plants and herbs.

‘Tis a Gift shifted the focus from Betsy to Tad and picked up the story two years after they moved into the Shaker Village. Tad still doesn’t fit in. Whenever he tries to do the chores expected of Shaker boys his age, whether it's milking cows or baling hay, something goes wrong. He eventually realizes he'd rather listen to the music of the wind blowing through tall grasses and watch the dancing of bumblebees, if that big bully Fred would just leave him alone.

All three books are part of the Think Young collection from MotesBooks and are available in bookstores, libraries, and online from

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