on 14 February 2014
The premise of this book interested me because the only other Amish book I've read that dealt with the topic of adoption was Beverly Lewis's The Shunning, and I imagined this book would be rather difficult. I read a sample initially, and while it didn't make me desperate to keep reading, it was intriguing enough to convince me to purchase this book when it was on sale on Kindle. Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn't quite live up to the initial chapters.
I think my biggest issue with this book was that the plot structure and the characters' motivations seemed to be all over the place. To make matters worse, some characters disappeared and others were introduced without their conflicts being resolved, and there was no indication that their stories would be concluded in the next book in the series. For example, Rudy seemed to be a major character for half the story, but he had no further contact with Annie after she returned to her Amish community. Alma, a midwife, was introduced when Annie returned home and while I really enjoyed her character and the encouragement she provided Annie with, there had been no prior mention of Annie assisting the midwife.
My biggest issue was simply that the conflict between Annie, John and Hanna was drawn out in an excruciating manner and then seemed to be resolved all too quickly when Annie and John finally sat down and talked about their problems. There was nothing physical keeping them from talking to each other, especially once Annie actually returned to their community, and in my opinion, it isn't a real conflict if all the characters need to do to resolve it is talk to each other. My other issue with the conflict is that I didn't completely understand Hanna's motivations for chasing after John and deliberately trying to hurt her sister. There were some vague comments about how Hanna was jealous of the respect Annie received in the community, but her actions just seemed cruel and malicious and unfounded.
One other niggling problem is that there seemed to be some contradictions in the way the Amish community functioned--at one time, Annie talked about sitting beside her father in church, and then in a later book it was mentioned that the men and women sat separately. Another confusing part of the book was when a storm hits the community and Annie's family takes refuge in the root cellar. When they come out of the cellar, Annie notices that the laundry has been strewn across the trees--but if it was night when the storm hit, why would laundry be outside?
I'm sure there are people that will enjoy this book, particularly as it reminded me a little of Wanda E. Brunstetter in the way that the plot was pushed along by dramatic events--a storm, a car accident, etc. Personally, I prefer books where the plot is driven by character development and inner struggles.
One last niggle--I felt rather uncomfortable with how the situation with Annie's mother was dealt with. I don't want to spoil this section for anyone, so I won't say any more. I was glad with the conclusion to the plot between Annie and her mother, and that she was able to find balance.
What did I like about this book? I liked the differences it showed between the Amish and Mennonites, and the insight into a more traditional, Old Order community. I did get annoyed at how judgemental Zeke, one of the ministers was, but I appreciated the emphasis on how not all of the community agreed with his judgements. John eventually grew on me and became a more appealing character, and I liked how he stuck up for what he believed in. I liked the exploration of Annie needing to find balance in her life. There were some quotes that I highlighted on this topic. I did find Annie's time in the English/Mennonite world interesting, but wasn't entirely sure if it would be that easy to find Annie's adoptive mother if she abandoned her in a field? But the details about the adoption process were interesting.
I'm really struggling with how to rate this book. It took me a long time to read this book, but there were parts of it that were interesting. Ultimately, I'd say that there is a good story in here, but the plot structure needs tightening up and the characters need to have their motivations strengthened in order for it to feel more believable.