Beverly Lewis, |
Annie's People #1: The Preacher's Daughter
(Bethany House, 2005)
Annie Zook is a young Amish woman with a real dilemma: she's been hiding her artistic talent from her family for years. Her drawings and paintings would be seen as unduly prideful -- not something an Amish girl should be spending time with. "Daydreamers get lost in the shuffle of life," her father says.
As the daughter of one of the leaders of the religious community, she's also feeling pressure to join the church officially. After doing so, her future path will be defined by the traditions of the People: she'll be expected to marry, start a family and manage a household. But Annie loves her art, and she's not so sure she wants to fall into the usual Amish lifestyle. She also loves her parents and brothers, but she's 20 years old and has her whole life ahead of her. And that new English guy who works at the harness shop seems nice. What's a girl to do?
At the same time, Annie's longtime Colorado and English penpal Louisa Stratford is facing a tough decision of her own. She's caught up in the frenzy of planning an extravagant wedding to lawyer Michael Berkeley. When she decides the proposed event has become too much of a circus, she takes a hard look at the facts and realizes she doesn't want to marry Michael after all. Much to everyone's surprise, she breaks off the engagement. Needing a place to go to clear her head, she heads to rural Paradise, Pennsylvania, where her old correspondent welcomes her to the family farm. Twenty-first century clothing is too conspicuous in the community, so Louisa borrows some of Annie's Plain dresses and temporarily adopts Amishness. But dressing up and going through the motions of a simpler but more regimented lifestyle doesn't solve all of Louisa's problems. She can't stay with the Zooks forever, and she can't avoid Michael and her parents forever. And then there's her old boyfriend Trey, who somehow discovers where she is and sends her a dozen red roses. What's a girl to do?
The quandaries of Annie and Louisa pale in comparison to those of Esther, Annie's Amish girlfriend. Pregnant with her fourth child, Esther is afraid to admit she's in an abusive marriage. Isn't every marriage like this one? Aren't Amish wives supposed to submit to their husbands? But how can submission be right if it's hurtful and disrespectful?
In this story's background is the kidnapping of a young Amish boy -- a painful event that took place many years ago. Though the incident was never handed over to the local police, the Amish men and women haven't forgotten it. The fate of young Isaac is still affecting some of their membership (and savvy readers may think they know what really happened to him). In describing his disappearance to Louisa, Annie says, "Our village of Paradise hasn't always been as peaceful as you might think." These are prophetic words indeed, when we read them after the all-too-real Amish schoolhouse tragedy that took place near Paradise in 2006.
It's easy to see why Beverly Lewis has established herself at the top of the Christian fiction genre. Her descriptions are vivid and her characters come alive with believability. Readers become so engrossed in the action on the pages that when they lift their eyes or close the book, it takes them a few seconds to come back to their own reality. These are stories of women and how they relate their faith to their independence and the major turning points in their lives. This first episode in the series is highly recommended. It is followed by The Englisher and The Brethren.
Corinne H. Smith
30 June 2007