Friday, July 17, 2015

THE INNOCENT, by Ann H. Gabhart

    Carlyn Kearney is living life at the near edge of poverty. Her soldier husband was reported missing during the last years of the War Between the States. The war has ended, but no word has come as to whether he is alive or dead. Since she has no income and a mortgage debt she cannot pay, an unscrupulous mortgage-holder demands the sheriff evict her from the house she shared with her husband. The sheriff, Mitchell Brodie, takes an interest in Carlyn and negotiates an agreement to give her time to find someplace else to live.
    With nowhere to go, she seeks shelter in a nearby Shaker community. The Shakers are reputed to be peace-loving and willing to accept refugees from the world. From the beginning, Carlyn finds life in the community anything but peaceful. The rules are overwhelming, and she learns immediately that she's not allowed to keep her dog or any of her "worldly" possessions.
    Things go downhill from there, and Carlyn finds herself a suspect in mysterious events that take place within the village. She has an ally in the sheriff, but he's not welcome in the community and she cannot leave.
    This story fascinated me in many ways. Carlyn's dilemma is heartbreaking and the mystery kept me guessing until the final pages. Beyond that, I appreciated how Ann Gabhart gave readers a look at Shaker life from the viewpoint of a doubter.
    This story goes beyond the "bonnet cover" to reveal the lives of real people. I recommend The Innocent highly.
    My thanks to Revell and the author for my review copy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

AMISH PROMISES, by Leslie Gould

    The back cover copy of Amish Promises begins, "Journey down a quiet lane in Lancaster County . . ." Let me just say, this story is far from a 'quiet lane' journey.
    Joel and Shani Beck have decided that the best place for Joel to recuperate from the injuries he received in Iraq is in the farmhouse left to Shani when her grandfather died. Their neighbors are Amish, as are many of the families in the area. This could be peaceful, except that the nearest household is headed by Tim Lehman, a stern patriarch who is opposed to having an Englisch family next door. He does all he can to keep his children and his sister away from the Becks.
    When Joel, who suffers from PTSD, compounds his war injuries in an accident, his Army friend Charlie comes to help the family. From this point on, the Becks' and the Lehmans' lives spin into a web of complications.
    Once I started reading Amish Promises I could hardly put the book down. I've heard it said that Amish novels are always the same. If that’s true, then Amish Promises breaks the mold.
     Leslie Gould is a talented storyteller. The concept of putting an Amish family and an Englisch family side by side is a refreshing change in the world of Amish fiction. The characters in Amish Promises are real people with the same flaws we all possess.
    I give this book an enthusiastic two thumbs up!

My thanks to the author and Bethany House for providing my review copy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

DEAD WAKE, by Erik Larson

            I finished reading Dead Wake several days ago, and still can't stop thinking about it. Larson unwraps the story step by step, just as the events happened. By giving us names and details about various passengers, he gives this historic event a sense of immediacy.
            The narrative switches back and forth between the captain of the German submarine that ultimately sank the Lusitania and the shipboard days that unfold during the Lusitania's fateful final trip to England. Again, the details are what make the story.
            I've read The Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck, also by Erik Larson, so I knew I'd enjoy Dead Wake. But I had no idea how thoroughly captivating this book would be. I read every word, all the way through the end notes--which are interesting in themselves.
            Larson's narrative voice shines through Dead Wake. You don't have to be a history buff to appreciate this story. It's one of the best books I've read in a very long time.