Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction, Feel-Good, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Miller-Judith, Romantic Fiction

#54 Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller


This novel is apparently part of a series called Daughters of Amana. I wasn’t quite sure what this book was. It is very like an Amish fiction book, but yet, it’s not. The novel still holds many elements of the Amish culture, but how the culture is described in the book doesn’t seem familiar with other Amish fiction books I have read. Maybe this has something to do with the time frame. This book is actually placed in the 1800s, whereas most Amish fiction books are placed in the here and now or up to forty years previous to today’s date. I am sure the Amish culture and way of life has evolved over the years, so maybe this was the author’s way of exploring the previous manifestations of the culture.

The culture described in this book is placed in Iowa, in a town called Amana. The people are of German stock. They use the familiar German phrases readers become familiar with while reading Amish fiction, Ja means yes, for example. They live in a community together. There are a few things I haven’t heard before. This community practices a pooling of resources. The members of the community turn their money into the community and are given an allotment for each year. The village store doesn’t use cash, but uses a tally sheet that will be compared against that family’s amount for the year, basically like a bank balance book. They eat in a community kitchen, people don’t prepare their meals at home. The real kicker here is that this community believes that it is better to remain unmarried rather than to marry. I have never really heard any religious society proclaim that, and this is where I am puzzled. So I am going to put this book in my “Amish fiction” category because it is similar, but it’s not really there.

This group practices something pretty close to a concept called consecration. Consecration is when a group of people choose to live together. They produce items, baked goods, vegetables, animals, and of course money. Each family keeps what they need to survive and gives everything extra to the community. That extra is distributed in the community to those who need. For example family A grows vegetables, but doesn’t have a cow, family B has cows and produces butter. Each family gives the extra to the community and family A ends up with butter and family B ends up with vegetables. This concept is great in theory, but there has never been a group that has been able to make it last. In ways, it’s very similar to the communes that the “hippies” are known for starting. I use quotes because I think most of the time that term is derogatory and all “hippies” weren’t pot-smoking air heads. There were some really smart people associated with the group that had great ideas. So needless to say, this community featured in this book is not something that is real.

The modern-day Amish people do deal in money, if the family has extra they may give it away to help others, but they are not required to do so. The Amish culture also encourages marriage. I’m still not quite sure what this group is in this book. I will have to do some more research and see if the author actually based this on a real culture or she just made the whole thing up.

On to the story! There are actually two main characters in this book both female. One girl’s name is Johanna, she is twenty-one. The other girl’s name is Berta and she is seventeen. The book opens in the scene where Berta just moves into the village at Amana. She, at first, doesn’t know that her family is moving there for good. Berta has some problems following rules.

Johanna has a few problems of her own. It seems that her parents are pushing her to marry someone. The culture says it is better to remain unmarried, so Johanna is kind of confused. Johanna has two older brothers. One left the community to go and live in Chicago, while the other died when Johanna was very young.

Berta on the other hand is an only child and she thinks that her parents have moved the family to the village because of Berta’s unpredictable behavior. Eventually Berta finds out that there are more reasons involved than that.

Johanna is instructed to help Berta learn the ropes of the community. Berta is assigned to work in the community kitchen with Johanna. Berta finds this hard work and classes with the kitchen boss.

That is as much as I am going to tell. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anybody. That is kind of all the book is anyways.

I liked this book ok, but it wasn’t outstanding. It had several well-known plot events thrown in and none of them were thoroughly discussed in the book. Johanna’s romance or lack thereof is never given that much “air-time” in the book. Each girl has several major things going on and it just seems like it’s too much. Granted that is the way life happens sometimes, but two characters with all their different problems are kind of hard to keep up with. The reader breaks the surface of what is going on, but never really gets to the center of what is going on. Each girl has family secrets to deal with. Each girl has romance to deal with. Each girl has a soul-searching to deal with. It’s a lot for one book. Usually in books only one character is going through these things at a time.

I did like Berta and Johanna, but even though I liked them I never got to the point where I really cheered them on. Main characters have to be someone you can cheer on through the story; Berta and Johanna weren’t those type of characters. It’s still a nice book. It’s a generic feel-good read. There isn’t really anything that makes it stand out other than the weirdness of the culture explained in the book.

What I liked: I am not sure if I liked learning about this culture yet because I’m not sure, yet, if it’s real or rather if it was real. Berta got into some funny situations. She acted before she thought and that made her an interesting character. She was a little unpredictable. As far as Johanna there wasn’t much to her really.

What I didn’t like: One of the things I really enjoy in “time-period specific” novels are the descriptions of the activities going on. This author didn’t get very descriptive. There are a few passages where the author talks about how certain foods are made that are somewhat descriptive, but everything else is kind of hazy. Each thing has a minimal description, but not a thorough description. I could never really get a picture of what this village looked like in my head. There were too many things left out; I couldn’t form an adequate image in my mind. I wanted to be able to see in my mind, “This is so-and-so’s house, this is where this house is in relation to the kitchen, this is where the garden is in relation to the house, this is where the store is in relation to the kitchen,” but I couldn’t do that. The kitchen was starting to sound like this awesome place of wonderful food and efficiency, but there was never enough detail to envision this massive bustling kitchen in my mind.

I really think the events and characters in the book were stretched in too many directions. Nothing could ever get deep enough. One of these girl’s stories alone could have made a great book providing there was deeper description.

It’s still not a bad book, it’s just not spectacular.

Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction, Feel-Good, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Fisher-Suzanne Woods, Romantic Fiction

#41 The Choice: Lancaster County Secrets by Suzanne Woods Fisher

As you might have surmised this is an Amish/Christian fiction novel. I do happen to really like all of these. I am not sure exactly why I am drawn to them, but I really enjoy reading them. Most of them are fairly well-written and weave God into the story line in such a way that the reader doesn’t feel the characters are exaggerating their belief.

The main character in this book is a young woman named Carrie. Most protagonists in the Amish/Christian fiction genre are female, which is a refreshing thing.

The book starts off on a good note. Carrie and her boyfriend are planning on running away together to get married. Her boyfriend, Sol, has been offered a change to try out for professional baseball. Something happens that prevents that. Carrie’s father suffers from hemophilia ( this is the first time someone has woven hemophilia into an Amish book) and he suffers an accident in the barn. He is dead before anyone can get any help. Carrie is devastated. Carrie has a younger brother named Andy. Andy is nine and also has hemophilia. She appeals to her boyfriend to let Andy come with them, but Sol tells her that he cannot afford to have Andy with them. So Carrie tells Sol no, she’s staying.

Another man has been eying up Carrie recently. His name is Daniel Miller. He recently moved into the area. He is soft spoken and quite nice. He asks Carrie to marry him and Carrie says yes on the condition that her brother can come, Daniel agrees.

Carrie and Daniel marry and they start their life together, but they do not perform all of the activities of husband and wife. Daniel knows that Carrie still loves Sol.

Sol finds out about this and is jealous. Sol gives Carrie the information that Daniel and his cousin Abel have a checkered past. Carrie confronts Daniel about this and he doesn’t deny it. He tells her what happened. Carrie is upset and rushes off. Daniel goes out to look for her and is killed.

Carrie can’t seem to catch a break anymore. After the funeral Abel Daniel’s cousin shows up on the farm. Carrie tries to come to terms with her relationship to Daniel. She juggles taking care of a nine year old and all the excitement that goes with it. She runs the household, balances the finances, and cares for the elderly grandmother left behind. Daniel’s father had died shortly before Daniel died.

There is also a business woman lurking around that wants to buy the farm and turn it into a golf course. Is she benign or malignant? You will have to read the story to find out.

I have to admit I was kind of upset that the author killed off Daniel, and so early in the book too. I liked him. I thought he and Carrie were really starting to understand one another. I thought this would be one of those “two people come together for whatever reason and then grow to love each other” stories. I was kind of disappointed but the book turned out ok in the end.

This isn’t one of those stories were exactly everything worked out. There were set backs and losses, but I still feel like there should be more life to the story. A lot of these books end up in marriage, but never say how the marriage is afterward. I really wish an author who writes Amish/Christian fiction would try something along those lines instead. There are more objectives in life than getting married.

What I liked: I liked Carrie, I liked all the people that came into her life. The characters are likable. For a time the reader even likes the antagonist. Most of the characters grow and change in some way. There were a couple that were constant throughout the entire text.

I’m not really sure if I liked all the trials that Carrie went through, but it was an interesting read. When I first started reading the book, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be that good, but once I got into it, I found that I liked it. I was invested in the story.

What I didn’t like: I’m thinking hard about this. As I said earlier, I would like it if a writer in this genre would write about after the marriage. A lot of these type of books have this theme of forgiveness. There is always somebody who needs to forgive somebody else. That is a pretty common theme in this little niche of fiction. I like it, I find it refreshing, honorable, and profound, but if you read many books of the same type, with the same theme it gets kind of old. We all do need to remember to forgive, but I kind of wish some of these books would concentrate on another area. There is more to being a Christian than forgiving and forgetting.

I’m not sure if this author has done as much research as some of the other authors who write in this area. She puts things in the book that kind of conflict with other books I have read as far as facts about the Amish. Of course there are different sects, so who knows.

Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction, Coming of age, Feel-Good, Fiction, Lewis-Beverly, Romantic Fiction

# 27 The Thorn by Beverly Lewis

I happen to really like reading Beverly Lewis books. Whenever you need a “feel good” book you can always turn to Beverly Lewis.

This book is the first book in a new series called “The Rose Trilogy.” The main character is named, of course, Rose. Rose is Amish, big surprise right, seeing as this is a Beverly Lewis book. I think it’s fascinating to read about Amish traditions and stories set in their villages.

Rose is a young woman just in her courting years, like almost every Beverly Lewis character. Rose’s mother is an invalid after crashing in her buggy on the way to the market. Rose’s sister Hen left the people several years before to marry a non-Amish man called Brandon. She now has a young daughter named Mattie.

Rose is really good friends with the adopted boy from next door. The boy, or rather young man, was adopted when he was about ten years old and he is not Amish. The boy’s name is Nick. Nick and Rose do lots of stuff together. They speak well together and share all kinds of things.

Nick has been fighting or rather arguing with his adopted family over several things. Nick isn’t as conforming to the Amish ways as they would like especially since he is the adopted bishop’s son.

Rose starts to “go steady” with a boy named Silas. Rose’s sister returns home with her daughter in tow. Will Hen’s marriage be saved? What is to become of the relationship between Nick and Rose? Will Rose marry that Silas guy? Unfortunately, I can’t find the answers to any of those questions yet because the next book in the series isn’t coming out until April. Oh sigh. Unless I find another Beverly Lewis book to read here soon I won’t be reading the word “ferhoodled” in anything. I like that word, “Ferhoodled.”

What I liked: It’s a Beverly Lewis story I like it. I don’t really have to say anything more about that.

What I didn’t like: It’s a Beverly Lewis story, what’s not to like, besides the fact that I can’t find out what happens next for several months?

Actually, I don’t like the cover art. The girl on the front looks like she is twelve, but it’s what is inside the cover that counts.