Among the flowers and plants in Marie Monville's sunny yard sits a rosebush, a gift from her first husband, Charlie.
A few years ago, Monville painstakingly unearthed the roots and transplanted the bush from her old house 10 miles away --- a house that Charlie had thrown into tumult and grief.
The bush's prickles recall the pain she and her family have endured, Monville said, and its peach-colored blossoms offer a yearly reminder that God creates new life from old.
After years of silence, Monville is now telling her own story.
It's the story of how a milkman's daughter became a murderer's wife, and how she found a divine calling after a devastating tragedy.
"If this wasn't my life," Monville said during a recent interview in her kitchen, family pictures smiling from the fridge, "I never would have expected it to look this beautiful."
On Oct. 2, 2006, Charlie Roberts -- then Monville's husband -- burst into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, with a handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun, a rifle, cans of black powder, a stun gun, two knives, a toolbox and restraint devices.
Roberts ordered a teacher, a teacher's aide and the boys to leave, then bound 10 young schoolgirls and lined them up against the blackboard.
He boarded the windows, apparently preparing for a long siege, but as police surrounded the schoolhouse, Roberts shot all 10 girls before killing himself. Five girls died; the others were severely wounded.
The gentle, quiet man who had shared Monville's bed, children and life was now a mass murderer, guilty of unfathomable evil.
In mere hours, Monville lost her husband, and her children lost their father. Her close-knit community was terrorized and her family's name disgraced. Her innocence was despoiled and her evangelical faith tested.
"I felt deserted, left behind to bear the weight of the world's judgment and questions alone," Monville writes in "One Light Still Shines," her new book about the shooting and its aftermath, "and I felt that weight pressing me down."
Stepping out of the shadows
After the shooting, Monville tried to keep her family, especially her three young children, out of the public eye.
But with the release of "One Light," which goes on sale Monday, Monville is stepping out of the shadows, sharing her story in deeply personal detail.
Zondervan, one of the country's largest Christian publishing houses, won't say how many copies it plans to print. But it has launched a "robust" marketing and publicity campaign, with a billboard in New York's Times Square and interviews with TV networks.
"It will sell millions of copies," said Donald Kraybill, co-author of "The Amish" and a professor at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "Millions."
Not only is Monville's story powerful and largely untold, but it also hits a burgeoning market for book publishers, Kraybill said: the cross-section of evangelical spirituality and interest in all things Amish.
Christian fiction best-seller lists brim with Amish romance novels, largely because of their large evangelical readership, which scholars trace to the 2006 shooting and its stunning postlude of Amish forgiveness.
Monville said she kept silent for so long because that story, the grace and compassion the Amish offered her family, was already making headlines around the world.
"There wasn't much more for me to say," she said.
Even if there had been more to say, the intensely private Monville was reluctant to speak publicly. Shy and quiet, she sometimes joked that the label under her high-school yearbook picture should have read, "Most Likely to be Forgotten."
But as the shooting's psychological wounds began to heal, Monville said she heard God calling her to a new mission: to share her message of hope. To tell others that, even after Charlie's crushing actions, her family not only survived, they thrived.
"I now saw a grand purpose in telling my story," Monville writes. "I wasn't afraid anymore."
Walking on water
The morning of Oct. 2, 2006, was sunny and warm, Monville recalls, the trees in her rural neighborhood radiant with red and golden leaves.
Monville, then Marie Roberts, was living her deepest childhood dreams. At 28, she had a vibrant church community and spiritual life, a dutiful husband who doted on their three young children and a home next-door to her grandparents in idyllic Lancaster, Penn., where she was born and raised.
Charlie Roberts, her husband of nearly a decade, drove a truck that delivered milk to nearby dairies, just as Marie's family had done for generations. He sometimes brooded over the death of their first daughter, who was born three months premature and died after just 20 minutes, but he usually pulled out from these bouts of depression.
On the morning of the shooting, Marie led a prayer group at a local church, where they asked God to keep schoolchildren safe. Then, as usual, she and Charlie walked their two oldest children, then 7 and 5, to the bus stop, kissing them goodbye before Charlie left for work.
At 11 a.m., as Marie was pouring herself a cup of coffee, Charlie called.
"I had never heard Charlie's voice sound like that before," Monville writes, "not in almost 10 years of marriage. Something was horribly wrong."
Charlie told Marie he was not coming home. He left a note explaining everything, he said. Marie pleaded with him to come home, but he hung up.
According to Pennsylvania State Police, Charlie also told Marie he had molested young family members two decades before and had daydreamed of doing so again. Monville said she left that out of her new book because police found the claims to be false.
"Charlie said a lot of things on the phone or the letter that didn't make a lot of sense," Monville said in an interview. "His mind was filled with all of the things he was planning to do, so he wasn't in a place of being OK."
The three-page letter Charlie left for Marie said she was the perfect wife, but the death of their firstborn child made him enraged at God.
"I am sorry to put you and the kids in this position but I feel that this is the best and only way," Charlie wrote. "I love all of you and this is why am I doing this."
Marie called 911. Sirens wailed in the distance. Hanging up the phone, she stood in the living room, staring at her ceiling fan, and prayed.
Monville calls this her "walk on water" moment, recalling when Jesus challenged the disciples to show their faith by following his footsteps across the Sea of Galilee.
"I was faced with two choices, and only two," she said.
"I could choose to believe that everything written about God in the pages of the Word were true, and that he was going to rescue me and my family. Or I could choose to believe that we were going down like the fastest sinking ship."