This is the book I picked after finishing Shutter Island and Gone Girl (yes, talk about a U-turn here). What could be more wholesome and comforting than an Amish novel? What narrator could be more reliable than the second girl of an Amish family who is approaching her courting years?
I’d had a surprisingly good experience with another of these Amish novels last year. This one was kind-of fun, clearly a notch down from my first experience. But still I empathized with the main character and read it to the end with pleasure (beware, this is only the first volume of a series, so all knots are far from being tied up at the end of this one).
The story centers on the 2 elder daughters of the Ebersol family who has 4 in total. The eldest, Sadie, is clearly tempted by the “Englisher” world, and she falls prey to a boy with sweet promises, at a very high cost for her (a teenage unwed pregnancy! I’m shocked! but don’t worry, Lewis don’t get into graphic details). The second girl, Leah, is watching her sister’s running wild with doubts and alarm. She’s clearly en route to marry into the community, but the boy she sets her eyes on is not the one her father would like her to marry. The two little sisters are still in the background of the novel, but there are opening plotlines for them as well.
Two things distracted me from the simple and wholesome fun I expected: the first is just the historical setting. I had assumed that the novel was in the present time, but it took me several chapters to figure out that we were in 1946-47. I know Amish communities are timeless, but still, attitudes were different back then than they are now, so it would have been precious to get that information early on.
The second thing is the parents’ attitude, which I didn’t find very believable. So much turmoil is going on in their daughters’ lives, and they don’t even have a clue? Am I supposed to buy that Sadie is able to sneak out at night to date an Englisher without their hearing anything? And then later on, that not even her mother notices that she’s pregnant, or that she has given birth? It’s okay to imagine circumstances with neglectful parents in other communities, but in one so insistent on family ties, so close-knit and without many distractions, it really stretches belief.
Or it’s high time I lose my illusions on the Amish. But if so, where shall I turn whenever in need for a safe, comforting read?